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Full text of "Romances of the peerage"

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ROMANCES 
OF THE 
PEERAGE 



To 

CHARLES RIDGE SIMPSON ESQRE 
With the Author's Sincere Regards 




BARBARA VILLIERS 
COUNTESS OF CASTLEMAINE 

AND 

DUCHESS OF CLEVELAND 



ROMANCES OF 

THE PEERAGE 



BY 
THORNTON HALL, F.S.A. 

Author of 
Love Affairs of the Courts of Europe" etc., etc. 



With 1 6 Illustrations 



LONDON: HOLDEN & HARDINGHAM 
ADELPHI .... 1914 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

I A BEAUTIFUL TERMAGANT - I 

II FIGHTING FITZGERALD - 12 

III THE " HANDSOME SCOTS " - -23 

IV THE WOOING OF A WIDOW - 33 
V THE CRIME OF A COUNTESS - 43 

VI THE ROMANCE OF THE SEA-CHILD - 53 

VII A QUEEN OF THE DESERT - - 63 

VIII THE POET AND THE COUNTESS - 74 

IX A RIGHT HONOURABLE JACK TAR - 84 

X A BELLE OF THE RESTORATION - 94 

XI AN INFAMOUS BROTHERHOOD - 104 

XII THE DUCHESS IN THE WHITE MASK - - 1 13 

XIII A BEAUTIFUL SHREW - - 124 

XIV A NOBLE ECCENTRIC 135 
XV THE WOMAN WHO MADE AN EMPEROR - 146 



2056552 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

XVI A ROMANTIC WOOING - - 156 

XVII THE MAD KNIGHT OF MALTA - - 1 66 

XVIII A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY SYREN - - 176 

XIX PEASANT OR COUNTESS - 1 86 

XX THE EARL AND THE BUTCHER'S DAUGHTER 196 

XXI TWO MADCAP MAIDS OF HONOUR - 2O6 

XXII A NOBLE DEGENERATE - - 215 

XXIII THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF AN EARL - 225 

XXIV THE MISER WHO REFUSED A CORONET - 236 
XXV THE THREE GRACES - - 246 

XXVI THE IDOL OF A HERO - - 256 

XXVII A MAID OF MYSTERY - - 266 

XXVIII AN UNCROWNED QUEEN 277 

XXIX A METEOR OF THE TURF - 287 

XXX AT THE SIGN OF THE " RED SHIELD " - - 2Q7 

XXXI AN EARLDOM THAT WENT A-BEGGING - 306 

XXXII A TRAGEDY OF THE ALTAR 315 

XXXIII THE BEAUTIFUL SHERIDANS - - 324 

XXXIV THE COMTESSE DE GRAMONT - 334 
XXXV A DUCAL ROUE ----- 344 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

BARBARA VIEWERS - Frontispiece 

Facing Page 

PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD STUART - 22 

THE COUNTESS OF ESSEX - - - 42 

THE LADY ELLENBOROUGH - 62 

THE COUNTESS GUICCIOLI - - 74 

MEDMENHAM ABBEY, BUCKS - 104 

FRANCES JENNINGS - 113 

LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU - 124 

THE HONBLE. MARY BELLENDEN - 2O6 

MARIA, COUNTESS OF WALDEGRAVE - - 246 

LAURA VISCOUNTESS CHEWTON, LADY MARIA 

WALDEGRAVE, LADY HORATIA WALDEGRAVE - 252 

LORD EDWARD FITZGERALD - - 266 

MRS. FITZHERBERT - 276 

LORD GEORGE BENTINCK - 286 

THE HONBLE MRS. NORTON - 324 

LA BELLE HAMILTON - 334 

vii 



ROMANCES OF THE 
PEERAGE 



CHAPTER I 

A BEAUTIFUL TERMAGANT 

IN the galaxy of fair women who in turn enslaved the 
Merry Monarch's heart, Barbara Villiers shines 
splendid and supreme. Others had their day of 
triumph, when for a time her supremacy seemed in 
danger; but, from Hortense Mancini, the most. 
radiantly beautiful of Mazarin's quintette of lovely 
nieces, to bewitching Nell Gwynne, the " orange 
wench " of Drury Lane, Barbara Villiers saw all her 
rivals relinquish their sceptres, while she, who was the 
first to receive Charles's caresses on the day of his 
restoration, remained to his last conscious hour his 
uncrowned Queen. 

One looks in vain for the secret of her queendom 
over this most fickle of Royal lovers. She was 
beautiful, it is true, with a bold, dark beauty and the 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

voluptuous physique before which Charles was ever 
weak; but in loveliness of face and figure she was 
eclipsed by most of her rivals, notably by La Belle 
Stuart and Nell Gwynne. And against her physical 
charms were arrayed " the temper of a fiend and the 
manners of a fish-wife," which might well have given 
short shrift to a woman more lovely and less clever. 

That there was a very vicious strain in Barbara 
Villiers' blood her stoutest champion could no more 
deny than he could put a finger on the source from 
which she derived it. Her father was William, 
second Viscount Grandison, who, when she was an 
infant, fell fighting valiantly for his King at Edgehill, 
and to whose virtues Clarendon paid such a glowing 
tribute; and if she was great-niece of that splendid 
profligate, the first Duke of Buckingham, all her direct 
Villiers ancestors had been men of clean lives and good 
repute from the days when Sir Richard carried his 
sword with the first Edward into the Holy Land. 

Cradled towards the end of the year 1640, Barbara 
was brought up in the country under the, perhaps 
careless, eye of her mother, who had found a second 
husband in Charles, Earl of Anglesey; and at sixteen 
brought her ripening charms of blue eyes, luxuriant 
black hair, and beautiful, though still immature, 
figure to London, where she seems to have lost no time 
in exhibiting the character which in some mysterious 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

way must have been developing in the seeming inno- 
cence of rustic life. Before she had been many 
months in London the young beauty, still but a school- 
girl, was shocking her relatives by an intrigue with 
that handsome fop, the second Earl of Chesterfield, 
with whom she was daily making assignations at 
coffee-houses or mercers' shops in the City. 

But so inconstant was she even at this early age that, 
while openly in love with the rakish Earl, who had 
already worn widower's weeds, to the amazement of 
everybody she actually gave her hand, in spite of the 
strong opposition of her family, to Roger Palmer, a 
law student of comparatively obscure family, without 
in any degree interrupting her relations with the noble- 
man whom Swift described as " the greatest knave in 
England." 

Thus before she had seen her nineteenth birthday 
we find Barbara, daughter of the proud house of 
Villiers, wearing a wedding-ring as wife of a poor 
student of the law, while engaged in an open liaison 
with a notorious rake, which was only concluded when 
the Earl, having killed his man in a duel, was com- 
pelled to take leave of both her and his country. 

For a time she seems to have led an uneventful 
and respectable life with her weak-kneed husband, who 
was the veriest slave to his beautiful wife, until a much 
more .formidable rival than the runaway Earl came 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

to disturb the domestic dovecot, in the form of the 
restored Stuart King, Charles II. When and where 
Barbara Palmer first met the man in whose life she was 
to play such a conspicuous part is not known. It may 
have been during his days of exile in Holland, where 
she had spent some time with her husband. We do 
know, however, that Charles, on the first proud day of 
his return to the throne of his fathers, lost not a 
moment in flying to her arms, with the thunders of 
acclaim still in his ears. He valued more a smile of 
welcome from Roger Palmer's wife than all the 
frenzied plaudits of his subjects and the fulsome 
oratory of the Speaker of the Commons. 

On the days that followed, Pepys, who was next- 
door neighbour to the Palmers in King-street, West- 
minster, throws significant light when he tells us of 
the " great doings of music he heard; the King and 
Dukes at Mme. Palmer's, a pretty woman they have 
a fancy to . " And through all this time Roger Palmer, 
now blossomed into a Member of Parliament for 
Windsor, looked on with weak smiles while his wife 
was wooed by a King and received the homage and 
questionable flatteries of his merry courtiers. 

With what fatal swiftness this syren enveloped her 
Royal lover in the toils of her beauty we know. Before 
he had been many months on his throne she had 
persuaded him to give her a coronet by ennobling her 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

nondescript husband; and as Baroness of Limerick and 
Countess of Castlemaine she plumed her feathers for 
further conquest. When Charles led Catherine of 
Braganza to the altar it seemed for a time that her 
day of triumph was over; but her ladyship knew better. 
She made this seeming calamity a stepping-stone to a 
more assured position. Nothing would satisfy her but 
that she should be appointed Lady of the Bedchamber 
to the new Queen, and thus be in a position to carry 
her " warfare " into the enemy's camp. 

Catherine was furious at the suggestion of such an 
indignity. She wept and pleaded and stormed; she 
vowed she would never admit " that woman " into 
her presence, and enlisted Clarendon himself as 
champion of her outraged honour. But Charles was 
inexorable alike to his wife's tears and his Chancellor's 
dignified protests. To the latter he declared, 
" Nobody shall presume to meddle in the affairs of 
the Countess of Castlemaine. Whoever dares to do 
so will have cause to repent it to the last moment of his 
life. " And within a few days the brazen Countess was 
presented by the King at the Drawing Room of his 
Queen, who, at sight of her, " fainted, breaking a 
blood-vessel." 

Assured beforehand of this new victory the Countess 
had picked a quarrel with that amiable nonentity her 
husband, and, in well-affected rage, had left him for 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

ever, taking with her " the plate, jewels and other 
best things, every dish and cloth and servant; except 
the porter "; and was thus free to climb untrammelled 
the dizzy ladder of ambition on which she had now 
secured so firm a footing. As for the abandoned Earl, 
he retired for a time to hide his shame and grief in a 
French monastery. 

Thus installed in a position of honour and intimacy 
in the King's palace, my Lady Castlemaine had 
abundant opportunities of enmeshing the King still 
more in her toils; and in this she succeeded until he 
became the veriest slave to her every caprice. And 
no lover, Royal or plebeian, ever had such an exacting, 
autocratic mistress. She lashed him mercilessly with 
her tongue; she would fly into rages before which he 
cowered; she revelled in making him an object of 
ridicule to his courtiers; but, so profound was his 
infatuation for his beautiful Xantippe, that the worse 
she treated him the more strongly his fetters were 
forged. 

Much as she loved power and place, she prized 
money more; and money she was determined to have, 
to squander on pleasure or to feed the greed of her 
many other lovers. The Customs were made to 
replenish her purse at the rate of 10,000 a year; from 
the tax on beer she drew a similar revenue, and the 
Post Office was made to contribute 5,000 annually; 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

while from the Irish Treasury she drew copious 
streams of gold. She trafficked openly in offices and 
dignities, and was as ready to pocket a few hundreds 
for a captaincy in the Army as to receive thousands of 
pounds for a seat on the Judicial Bench or the lawn 
sleeves of a Bishop. And, not content with bleeding 
the country to the extent of at least 100,000 a year, 
it is said that whenever she went shopping she charged 
the Privy Purse with the cost of her purchases. 

From Charles himself she was constantly extorting 
or cajoling large sums or costly presents. Pepys, for 
instance, tells us that " my Lady Castlemaine hath 
all the King's Christmas presents, made him by the 
Peers, given to her "; and that " at the great ball she 
was much richer in jewels than the Queen and Duchess 
(of York) put together." One day, at a play, her 
jewels were valued at 40,000, an enormous sum in 
those days. And at one time, we learn, she had 
stripped her Royal lover of everything, " so that he 
himself lacked linen and the very servants at Whitehall 
had not bread to eat." 

And fast as the ill-gotten gold poured into her 
coffers it flowed out in channels of reckless extrava- 
gance. Enormous sums, we know, found their way 
into other pockets over the card-table; she rarely 
staked less than i ,500 on a cast; and at a single sitting 
she .once lost 25,000. Large sums were also 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

squandered on her favourites, who succeeded one 
another in bewildering succession; in fact, in the 
number and variety of her lovers this Queen of 
a King's harem was no mean rival to Catherine the 
Great, the most notorious libertine in history. 

Now it is Henry Jermyn, the biggest fop and rake 
of the day, with his large head, small legs, and absurd 
affectations, with whom she dallies ; and now it is Jacob 
Hall, the rope-dancer, " a compound of Hercules and 
Adonis," on whom she bestows a large pension drawn 
from the National Defence Fund. Young John 
Churchill, the handsomest page at Charles' Court, was 
drawn into her web; and when he was compelled to 
make his escape through her boudoir window just as 
the King opened the door, and was sent packing off 
to the wars to cool his ardour, my lady, as she kissed 
him good-bye, slipped 5,0x30 into the hand of her 
" dear boy." 

To Churchill succeeded that prince of profligates 
and dandies, the second Duke of Buckingham, who 
for a time shared her smiles with King Charles; then 
it was Wycherley who caught her volatile fancy with 
his handsome face and clever tongue; only to give 
place in turn to some other favourite, such as the actor 
Hart, Shakespeare's grand-nephew, of whom Pepys 
tells us, " My Lady Castlemaine is mightily in love 
with Hart; and he is much with her in private, and she 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

goes to him, and do give him many presents; and that 
the thing is most certain, and by this means she is even 
with the King's love to Mrs. Davis.*' 

Thus squandering her gold in every form of dis- 
sipation and wild extravagance, and lavishing her 
smiles on a panorama of lovers from Dukes to mounte 
banks and actors, my lady had for many years a right 
royal time as maitresse en litre to her indulgent Royal 
lover, whose loyalty was unshaken alike by her 
tempers and her infidelities. 

That there were many scenes between the lovers 
was inevitable; but from all my lady emerged 
triumphant, thanks to her scathing tongue and her 
domineering temper. On one occasion, after wither- 
ing Charles with the sirocco of her abuse, she packed 
up her trunks and left the palace for Richmond, swear- 
ing she would never return. Within a couple of days 
Charles was at Richmond imploring his Countess on 
his knees to forgive and forget; and the following day 
she was installed at Whitehall more secure in favour 
than ever. And this is but one of many similar 
occasions on which she brought her Royal lover to his 
knees. 

For a time, it is true, her star was paled by rival 
luminaries which floated into the Court firmament; but 
her eclipse was quickly over, and she emerged from it 
more- splendid than before. And it was only when 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Louise de Querouaille, that Queen of intrigantes, got 
Charles within her toils that her supremacy was really 
in danger. By this time she had blossomed into the 
Countess of Southampton and Duchess of Cleveland, 
and had been dowered with lands and revenues more 
than adequate, apart from her plunder, to keep up such 
high dignities; and so successfully did she continue 
to play her cards to the end that, on that memorable 
Sunday night, a few days before Charles's death, she 
was, it is said, the most brilliant figure at his final 
festival of gambling and song in the palace of White- 
hall. 

The rest of her strange story must be told in few 
words. With her Royal lover's death the Duchess's 
sun of splendour had set; but her passions lost none 
of their fires. She lived through James II.'s reign in 
luxury and extravagance, and kept up her intrigues. 
At sixty-six she was led to the altar by " Handsome 
Fielding," an insufferable fop and rake whom Swift 
pilloried as " one of the meanest figures in history " 
a man, moreover, young enough to be her son; and 
with him she led a terrible life. He plundered her, 
beat her, and when she could not, or would not, give 
him all the money he demanded, he would " draw his 
sword and threaten to kill her, swearing it was no more 
sin to kill her than a dog." 

When at last this horrible nightmare ended in a 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

divorce, after her husband's conviction on a charge of 
bigamy, the Duchess retired to her Chiswick house to 
spend her last years in peace and retirement; and there, 
lonely and unfriended, she closed her days miserably 
one October day in 1709, leaving practically nothing 
behind her of her ill-gotten gold, but leaving the 
memory of life's best gifts squandered in a shameless 
life. To Charles she had borne three daughters and 
four sons, three of whom lived to wear ducal coronets. 



CHAPTER II 

FIGHTING FITZGERALD 

A MAN in whose veins mingled the turbulent blood of 
the Geraldines and the wild, eccentric strain of the 
Herveys (of whom Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 
said, " God made men, women, and the Herveys ") 
could scarcely be expected to play a normal or prosaic 
part on the stage of life ; and certainly George Robert 
Fitzgerald proved a worthy scion of the houses of 
Leinster and Bristol. 

His father, George Fitzgerald, was a dissolute Irish 
squire, who lived on the Mayo lands which his fore- 
fathers had held since Cromwell's day, and squan- 
dered his patrimony of ,3,000 a year in ways which 
shocked his more sober-going neighbours. His 
mother, the Lady Mary, daughter of the Earl of 
Bristol, who had left the Royal Court where she was 
maid-of-honour to the Princess Amelia, to wear the 
orange-blossom for the Irish squire, had much of the 
beauty and character of the Hervey women, and more 
than her share of their eccentricities. 

It was an ill-assorted, impossible union, which could 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

only end in disaster ; and before Lady Mary had been 
many years a wife she left her profligate husband, tak- 
ing with her their elder son, George, and leaving 
behind a menage consisting of the squire, a Miss 
Norris, who had taken her place in her hus- 
band's volatile affections, and a younger son, Charles 
Lionel. 

The elder boy, George, after a few years at Eton, 
where he was the ringleader in every escapade, passed 
into the Army, where, before many months had 
passed, he began the career of turbulence and lawless- 
ness which won for him the designation of " Fighting 
Fitzgerald." His first adventure was characteristic 
of the youth. One day, tempted by the red lips of a 
pretty milliner's assistant, he vaulted over the counter 
to snatch a kiss from them, and, a few hours later, 
found himself challenged to a duel by a neighbouring 
shopkeeper, the girl's lover. The duellists repaired 
to an obscure public-house, and locked themselves in 
a room for a fight to the death ; and death would prob- 
ably have been the issue had the duel not been inter- 
rupted before the fight had well begun. 

Our hero was naturally disgusted at such a tame 
finish to his first affaire; but he had not long to wait 
for a second and more serious occasion to prove his 
mettle. One of his fellow-subalterns, whom he had 
driven to desperation by his bullying and teasing, 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

summoned up courage to challenge the tyrant. A 
meeting took place at five o'clock in the morning, and 
at the second exchange of shots, Fitzgerald received 
the ball in his forehead, and was only saved from an 
early grave by the operation of trepanning. It is said 
that his father was so disgusted at this happy issue 
for his son that, when a relative ventured to congratu- 
late him, he made an attempt, which narrowly escaped 
success, to run the sympathiser through the body with 
his sword. 

But, in spite of his braggadocio, our hero seems to 
have been a bit of a coward, as was proved on one 
occasion when he repeatedly interrupted the conver- 
sation of a Mr. Dillon. Mr. Dillon bore the boy's 
rudeness with exemplary patience for a time; then, 
producing his watch, he said quietly, " I lay down 
my watch on the table, and if you attempt to say a 
word for one hour I will make it a personal matter 
with you. You understand me, young sir?" The 
" young sir " did understand, and for sixty minutes 
he never once opened his mouth. 

While still in his teens, Fitzgerald carried his 
prowess and his indiscretions to Dublin, where he 
proved as adventurous in the lists of love as on the 
duelling-ground. He succumbed to the charms of a 
pretty heiress, a Miss Conolly; and when her family 
ventured to oppose the union, he promptly ran away 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

with her, made her his wife, and escaped for his 
honeymoon to France. Here the " fine, fighting, 
frolicsome " Irishman cut for a time a conspicuous 
figure at the Court of Louis XVI., until he was kicked 
out of it as the result of shady conduct at the gaming- 
table. 

A few days later, however, the irrepressible youth 
turned up at the Royal Stag Hunt at Fontainebleau, 
and proved his daring by leaping after the stag over a 
wall into the Seine, and bringing it to bay on the oppo- 
site bank. Nor was he long before his lust for duel- 
ling asserted itself. He found a suitable victim in a 
Major Baggs, whom he disabled at the first shot. 
Not content, however, with having put his man hors 
de combat, Fitzgerald horrified his seconds and on- 
lookers by threateningly walking up to the fallen Major. 
" Sir, I am wounded," faintly exclaimed Baggs. 
" But you are not dead," retorted Fitzgerald, as he 
put another bullet into his helpless adversary. 

After such an exhibition of cowardice and treachery, 
Fitzgerald was glad to escape to London, where his 
dissolute life, his reckless gambling, and his insuffer- 
able " swagger " won for him an unenviable notoriety ; 
and where he quickly found an opportunity of practis- 
ing once more his questionable art of the duello. When 
a down-at-heels habitue of the turf known as " Daisy 
Walker" refused to pay him ,2,500, which he cer- 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

tainly did not owe, Fitzgerald promptly sent his 
second, and a duel was arranged. At the first ex- 
change of shots Walker was wounded ; the Irishman, 
before firing, offering to wager a thousand guineas 
that he could kill his man. Luckily for him the bet 
was not taken; for although seriously hurt, Walker 
survived many a year. 

In spite of his passion for fighting, Fitzgerald seems 
to have been anything but bloodthirsty in appearance. 
He is described, at this time, as " a polished and 
elegant gentleman; his person was very slight and 
juvenile, and his countenance extremely mild and in- 
sinuating in marked contrast to the savage treachery 
of his actions." That he was dandy as well as swash- 
buckler, we know ; for when his house in County Mayo 
was looted by a Castlebar mob, among the personal 
spoil were " a set of diamond vest-buttons, a diamond 
loop and button for a hat, and a hat-band ornamented 
with five or six rows of pearls." 

Fitzgerald seems at last to have had a surfeit of the 
duello ; for in 1778 we find him fired by a new ambition 
none other than to win a seat in Parliament; and 
into this ambition he threw himself enthusiastically. 
His candidature opened magnificently, dramatically. 
" A string of cars from the city of Dublin, of an amaz- 
ing length, preceded the company several days, loaded 
with the choicest articles the metropolis could furnish 

16 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

necessary for the occasion. To them succeeded, in 
proper order, cooks and confectioners of different 
nations, sexes and colours; sempstresses, tailors, 
mantua-makers, milliners, perfumers, hairdressers, 
musicians, fireworkers, players, shoeblacks, and five 
times the number of beggars." 

For three riotous days Castlebar kept high holiday, 
deluged with seas of liquor and enlivened by scores 
of free fights. And through the turbulent, riotous, 
shillelagh-flourishing crowds, our hero made his 
triumphal progress in a gorgeous carriage, hemmed in 
by sealed bags of golden guineas and " covered with 
a profusion of jewels." But the candidate had made 
himself too obnoxious in a score of ways to the Mayo 
electors to win their suffrages. They would drink to 
his success until the world reeled, and they would 
pocket his guineas; but they refused to send him to 
Westminster. 

He had little time, however, for disappointment. 
His father and brother were busy plotting to cheat 
him of his inheritance; and at this juncture his wife, 
to whom he seems, strange as it may appear, to have 
been devoted, died, to his great grief. His troubles 
seem to have turned his brain, if it was not already 
unbalanced. He became moody and eccentric to an 
alarming degree. He spent his nights in hunting, or 
racing -madly over the country to the risk of his neck 

17 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and the consternation of his neighbours. He became 
so savage that none dared approach him. He was, 
for a time at least, undoubtedly mad. 

By a series of brutal and unprovoked injuries he 
forced his neighbour, Lord Altamont, into a duel ; and 
before his lordship had time to draw his sword Fitz- 
gerald fired his pistol point-blank at his head. In a 
later duel with a man named ffrench he only saved 
his life by grovelling on the ground, where his 
opponent left him in disgust. 

With his father and brother he was constantly at 
feud. He drove them from Rockfield House, gar- 
risoned it, and defied them to regain possession ; and 
when he was arrested for rioting he made a daring 
escape through the roof of his prison. He next way- 
laid his father on a journey to Dublin, carried him off 
to Turlough, and kept him prisoner. It is said even 
that he " had him chained to a block of wood and had 
three of his teeth knocked out." 

Again he was arrested; and this time he was 
sentenced to three years' imprisonment and a fine of 
,1,000, only to make another daring escape from his 
prison, to throw himself on horseback, and race back 
to Turlough and his captive father. The whole 
country was now in arms against the outlawed " mad- 
man." A small army of soldiers was summoned from 
Dublin a thousand volunteers swelling their ranks. 

18 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Fitzgerald was hemmed in by an army of resolute 
men, all determined to capture him dead or alive. 
But again he proved more than a match for the enemy. 
In the dead of night he made his way through the 
ring of armed men, carrying his father with him. He 
crossed over into Sligo, and, taking a boat, fared out in 
the open sea, where at last he compelled his father to 
come to terms. A few days later he was arrested 
"while walking in a careless and indifferent manner 
in College Green." 

After some months of durance, he received a free 
pardon it is said through the Hervey influence ; and 
once more he returned undaunted to the fray with his 
father and brother, who, he was convinced, were in a 
conspiracy to defraud him of his rights of heirship. 
A few months later, Ireland was horrified by the news 
that Patrick McDonnell, the legal champion of the 
opposition faction, and one of his colleagues named 
Hipson, had been brutally murdered at Fitzgerald's 
instigation. 

This crowning outrage roused the country to the 
highest pitch of resentment and indignation. Tur- 
lough House was besieged by a clamorous and excited 
mob, supported by a troop of horse and some volun- 
teers, and Fitzgerald was " run to earth," concealed 
amid a heap of blankets in a chest, and lodged in 
Castlebar Gaol. So strong and fierce was the feeling 

19 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

against the " cowardly assassin " that, shortly before 
his trial, his cell was broken into by a number of men 
armed with swords and pistols; and, although the 
prisoner fought desperately, he was left for dead. At 
the trial he was carried into Court on his bed, almost 
lifeless from the forty-six wounds that had been in- 
flicted on him by his would-be murderers. 

The trial was as brief as it was dramatic. So dense 
was the crowd of spectators that " they were sitting 
on each other's shoulders." Just before proceedings 
opened, a cry that the floor was giving way caused 
such alarm that judge and jury, counsellors and 
spectators, stampeded and made a mad rush for the 
door, in which many persons were seriously injured. 
To the charge against Fitzgerald, of " provoking, 
stirring up, and procuring certain persons to kill 
Patrick Randell McDonnell and James Hipson," the 
jury, after seven minutes' deliberation, returned a ver- 
dict of " Guilty," and sentence of death was passed 
and ordered to be carried out that same day. Thus 
swift and summary was the vengeance that had at 
last overtaken our hero or, perhaps we should say, 
our " villain." 

As the clock was striking six the same evening, the 
doomed man, arrayed in an old hunting uniform, with 
dirty shoes and stockings on his feet, and a hat tied 
with a hempen cord, was solemnly conducted to the 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

place of execution. Mounting the scaffold, he gazed 
for a moment, with indifferent eyes and a contemptu- 
ous curl of the lips, at the sea of faces beneath him, 
then, shaking hands with the Sheriff and executioner, 
he prepared himself for the last act of all, adjusted 
the rope round his own neck, and, after a brief prayer, 
suddenly flung himself off. 

To the consternation of all, the rope snapped, and 
Fitzgerald fell, a huddled heap, to the ground. Rais- 
ing himself, he exclaimed. " Is it possible the grand 
jury of Mayo will not afford me a sufficiently strong 
rope?" "Never fear," answered the High Sheriff, 
"you shall have one strong enough, and speedily!" 
Then, turning to the hangman, he added, " Do you 
hear ? No more botching ! " 

When a new rope was forthcoming, Fitzgerald's 
courage seemed to have deserted him. He begged 
more time for prayer. Then, after a few minutes 
thus spent, he mounted the ladder again with halting 
steps. The rope now proved too long. After a 
further delay, it was shortened, and, with a final appeal 
to the Supreme Judge, before Whom he was so soon 
to appear, Fitzgerald was launched into eternity. 

Thus ignobly perished, at the age of thirty-eight, 
George Robert Fitzgerald, swashbuckler, duellist and 
murderer, while the High Sheriff, who watched his 

21 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

dying struggles, carried in his pocket the reprieve 
which would have given him a new lease of his mis- 
spent life. 



22 




PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD STUART 



CHAPTER III 

THE " HANDSOME SCOTS " 

WHO was John Sobieski Stuart, Earl of Albany, who 
died obscurely in Pimlico one February day in 1872; 
and who, as he lay stretched in death, bore so strange 
and striking a resemblance to Vandyke's presentment 
of Charles II? Was he, as he claimed to be, a lineal 
descendant of the Merry Monarch, and rightful heir 
to his regal honours; or was he, as so many believed 
and still assert, an impostor? 

That the Earl was at least honest in this belief in 
his Royal descent and rights, the late Mr. W. P. 
Frith, R.A., stoutly maintained to his last day ; and 
there were thousands across the Scottish Border who 
would have been ready to lay down their lives for him 
had he chosen to maintain his title at the point of the 
sword. 

Frith had first made the acquaintance of the Royal 
Pretender under dramatic circumstances. He was in 
the London studio of a Scottish artist when a knock 
came to the door, and the maid announced " The 
Princes." A moment later there walked into the 
studio two tall, strikingly handsome men of dis- 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

tinguished appearance, at sight of whom the artist and 
his wife dropped on their knees, and in turn kissed 
the extended hands of the strangers with more than 
the reverent homage usually accorded to Royalty. 

When the Princes had withdrawn, his Scottish 
friend revealed to Frith the identity of his exalted visi- 
tors. They were, he said, none other than the grand- 
sons of " Bonnie Prince Charlie," whose pretensions 
to the throne of England had come to such a tragic 
and complete eclipse at Culloden in 1745; and they 
were now living in comparative obscurity and poverty 
in Pimlico. " Such," said Mr. Frith, " was the start- 
ling revelation made by my friend, the Scottish artist. 
And, indeed, I could well imagine it true; for of the 
two strangers the elder was the exact facsimile of 
Charles II., while the younger might have been the 
Bonnie Prince come to life again, so strong was the 
resemblance." 

In order to judge fairly the claim made by these 
Princes of Pimlico, it is necessary to tell their story 
from its beginning a story more full of romance and 
mystery than almost any other in this series of 
sketches ; and on which the curtain rises some seventy 
years before this singular experience in a London 
studio. 

One day about the year 1774, a young Scottish 
doctor called Cameron, who was touring in Italy, was 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

strolling in the grounds of the Convent of St. Rosalie, 
between Parma and Florence, when he saw, rapidly 
approaching along the road beneath him, a carriage 
drawn by four horses, with postillions in scarlet 
liveries. As the gorgeous equipage, with its steaming 
horses, dashed past, the doctor caught a glimpse of its 
occupants a handsome man of distinguished appear- 
ance, with a pale-faced young lady by his side. Brief 
as the glimpse was, it was sufficient; there could be 
no mistaking the face of the man, which had been 
familiar to him from early boyhood in many a por- 
trait. It was that of Prince Charlie, the hero and 
victim of Culloden; and the pale-faced lady by his 
side was probably his girl-wife, Louisa, Princess of 
Stolberg and Countess of Albany, whom the blase, 
but still handsome, Prince had married a couple of 
years earlier. 

Within an hour, and almost before he had recovered 
from his sensational discovery, an officer in uniform 
ran breathlessly up to the young doctor, and, saluting 
him, said, " I believe you are Doctor Cameron ? Your 
presence here is most opportune. May I beg you to 
accompany me at once to a lady who is in sore need 
of your services? You will be well rewarded; but I 
regret that it is necessary that you should accompany 
me blindfolded." 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

At first the doctor indignantly declined an invitation 
couched in such terms; but finally, partly moved by 
the officer's earnest pleading and partly by curiosity 
and a sense of honour, he consented; and, suffering 
his eyes to be bandaged, was quickly whirled away in 
a waiting carriage to his destination. 

When the bandage was removed, the doctor found 
himself in a large drawing-room luxuriously furnished 
in crimson velvet, with its walls lined with mirrors, 
where he was left by his mysterious guide. A few 
moments later the door opened to admit the officer 
who, his face now wreathed in smiles, said, " I am 
delighted to inform you that the danger we anticipated 
is now over. During my absence the lady has safely 
given birth to a child, and your services will probably 
not be required. But, before you go, perhaps you 
will be good enough to see her and the child 
to satisfy yourself that there is no longer any 
danger." 

Dr. Cameron, assenting, followed the officer through 
long corridors, and was ushered into the patient's bed- 
room a large chamber faintly illuminated by a soli- 
tary wax candle in which he saw a woman holding 
an infant wrapped in a mantle, and behind the cur- 
tains of a stately bed the pale, white face of the girl- 
mother. A few minutes served to satisfy the doctor 
that all was well; and, again blindfolded, he was 

26 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

swiftly conveyed back to St. Rosalie with a substantial 
fee in his pocket. 

Nor was this the end of Dr. Cameron's strange 
adventures. One evening, a few days later, he was 
strolling along the seashore when he saw a frigate 
lying at anchor little more than a stone's throw away. 
A boat was lowered and rowed ashore, and at the same 
moment he heard a carriage approaching. " The car- 
riage," to quote the doctor's own words, " was accom- 
panied by a man on horseback, a man whom I recog- 
nised as he who had conducted me a few days earlier 
to the bedside of my lady patient. The carriage 
stopped, and from it there descended a lady bearing 
an infant in her arms. She entered the boat and was 
rapidly rowed to the vessel, while the horseman re- 
mained looking after her. Then the carriage drove 
off, with him riding beside it." 

The infant who had so dramatically made its 
appearance in the world had evidently been smuggled 
away in what appeared to be a British war-vessel ; and 
this child he shrewdly suspected was the son of Prince 
Charlie and his Countess wife, and the next Stuart 
Pretender to the throne of England. 



Many years later Mr. Macdonnell, a Highland 
gentleman, to whom Dr. Cameron had told the story 

27 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

on his deathbed, made the acquaintance of the child 
of mystery, long grown to handsome manhood. He 
was, Mr. Macdonnell says, " a strikingly handsome 
man, with eyes such as never were in the head of man 
or bird, save the eagle and Prince Charlie." He 
wore the Stuart tartan, and was addressed by his 
French valet as " Altesse Royale " and " Monseig- 
neur " ; and made no concealment of the fact that he 
was that son of Charles Stuart and the Countess of 
Albany who, a few days after his birth in Italy, had 
been brought to England by Admiral Hay in a war- 
ship. 

Here was strong confirmation of the strange story 
which the dying doctor had confided to Mr. Mac- 
donnell. But why, if the story were true, should the 
Stuart Prince wish to conceal the existence of his son 
in such a mysterious way? To this question the 
answer was prompt. The Prince wished to place his 
child in safety until he attained his majority; he was 
convinced that, if his existence were known, an 
attempt would be made on his life. And it was the 
Prince's strong desire that his heir should be brought 
up, not only unknown as a Stuart, but ignorant of his 
own birth. 

This explanation was sufficiently plausible to satisfy 
Mr. Macdonnell that " Son Altesse Royale " was in 
fact the new hope of the Stuarts the child whose 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

coming had been surrounded by so much romance and 
mystery. He learnt, too, with interest that Charles 
Stuart's son was himself the father of two boys, John 
Sobieski Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart, who were 
being brought up in Scotland, pledged by their father 
never to reveal their Royal origin during his lifetime. 
*****#** 

The next scene in this romantic drama is staged by 
the Viscount D'Arlingcourt who, while visiting Scot- 
land, heard much of these princely grandsons of the 
" Young Pretender." He was the guest of Colonel 
Hugh Bailie, at Red Castle, and, curiously enough, 
actually occupied the very bedchamber in which the 
Bonnie Prince had slept a few nights before the 
tragedy of Culloden ; and from his host he learnt with 
astonishment that the Prince's grandsons were actu- 
ally living at a place called Eilan Aigas, but a short 
distance away. 

" They are the two handsomest men," the Colonel 
said, " in this part of the country. Nature has loaded 
them with her favours. They have education, wit, 
talents; and would indeed have been worthy of a 
throne." Naturally the Viscount's curiosity was 
aroused; and he thankfully accepted Lady Lovat's 
offer to conduct him to the home of the Princes of 
mystery. 

He found it a mediaeval building, with ancient 

29 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

windows and painted glass, shaded by centuries-old 
firs and oaks; the escutcheon of Charles Edward was 
over the door, with the inscription, " The Lord gave, 
and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name 
of the Lord." The two Princes unfortunately were 
absent; but the wife of the younger (the only one 
married) was there to welcome the Viscount and to 
conduct him over the house. 

The large hall he found hung around with flags. 
The walls were covered with trophies; and the light 
streamed through painted glass windows on statues 
and banners in the most fantastic manner. " There 
were collected together all the memorials of Charles 
Edward his arms, his banner, his garments, his por- 
trait. I admired his fine and noble countenance, 
which I then beheld for the first time. A picture 
painted by John Sobieski (the elder of the Prince's 
grandsons) struck me very much. Its subject was the 
' Battle of Culloden.' " 

" No imagination could remain calm under the roof 
of the brothers Stuart," continues the Viscount. 
"Charles Edward is married; his brother is still 
single; they never leave each other. Both of them 
wear habitually the Highland costume; their tartan, 
like that of their grandfather, is red with green 
squares; and the white rose is their symbol. Learned 
and endowed with rare talents, they cultivate the arts 

30 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and literature. Their personal beauty and dis- 
tinguished manners are such that they could not travel 
through Scotland a few years ago without awaking 
the enthusiasm of the Highlanders. Indeed, there 
were some who only waited for a word from their 
mouths to rise in their favour and claim the crown 
for them once more." 

Such is the story told by the French Viscount of the 
Princes whose entry into a friend's studio had pro- 
vided such a dramatic memory for Mr. Frith. From 
other sources we learn that in earlier years the Stuart 
brothers had done doughty deeds with their swords 
in France under the banner of Napoleon, who was so 
much impressed by the reckless valour of John 
Sobieski in one engagement that he detached his cross 
from his button-hole and, on the field of battle, pre- 
sented it to the young hero. Everywhere the " hand- 
some Scots " seem to have been received with dis- 
tinction and to have won golden opinions. 

Their later history is involved in mystery. The 
younger brother, Charles Edward, is said to have died 
suddenly at sea, leaving no child to inherit the barren 
honours of his family. But through what strange 
vicissitudes the elder brother drifted to his obscure 
death in Pimlico no records tell us. To his last hour 
he solemnly persisted in his claim to be the grandson 
of " Charles III. of England," and rightful heir to 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the British throne; and, in spite of much that is diffi- 
cult to explain in his story, none to-day can say with 
certainty that his pretensions were unfounded. 

It is true that the tomb of Cardinal, the Duke of 
York (younger brother of Charles Edward), in St. 
Peter's, Rome, bears the inscription, " Here lies the 
last of the Stuarts " ; and that the Cardinal, on his 
brother's death in 1788, caused a medal to be struck 
bearing the Latin legend, " Henry IX., King of Eng- 
land by the grace of God, but not by the will of men." 
Is it possible, the sceptics argue, if Prince Charlie 
had had a son or grandson living at the time, that the 
Cardinal would thus have assumed a sovereignty 
which was not his ; and that his tombstone would per- 
petuate his memory as " the last of the Stuarts " ? 

This, it must be confessed, is an argument difficult 
to rebut; but against it is a weight of evidence which 
makes it more than probable that the singular story 
which links Dr. Cameron's romantic journey to the 
sick-room near St. Rosalie with that death-bed scene 
in Pimlico nearly a century later, may hold much more 
truth than was known to Cardinal York, " the ninth 
Henry " of England, and his adherents. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE WOOING OF A WIDOW 

WHEN, one April day in the year 1628, Mistress 
Bennett swathed herself in crape to follow the remains 
of her late husband, Richard Bennett, to his last 
resting-place in the God's acre of St. Olave's, Jewry, 
we may be sure that her mirror reflected a face of 
becoming grief, and that no thought of such worldly 
vanities as beauty and gold came to invest her cloud 
of sorrow with a silver halo. It was true that she was 
still young, and so she was often told the fairest 
woman in London City; but what were such vanities 
as youth and a comely countenance in face of such a 
loss as had befallen her ? 

But youth will, if you give it a chance, triumph over 
grief and loss, however deep; and the mirror that 
reflects a pretty face will not always make its flattering 
appeal in vain. And thus it was with our City dame, 
who, when she had done all reasonable justice to the 
memory of her departed spouse, wiped away her last 
tear, and began to realise that life was a beautiful thing 
after all, and held much promise for a woman who 
could bring to its enjoyment both beauty and money- 
bags. ^ 

33 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Of the former there could be no question. Every 
masculine eye that rested on her comeliness dwelt there 
to tell the tale. And as for the gilding her departed 
husband had been one of the most substantial of 
London's citizens; and was she not heir to two-thirds 
of all his possessions, in addition to jewels which were 
the envy of every City lady, to a small fortune in 
family-plate, and to the Bennett coach with its 
four "grey mares and geldings," which even 
the Lord Mayor might have envied, so gorgeous 
was it ? 

Within three months of the last " Amen " spoken 
over her husband's grave, Mistress Bennett was ready 
once more to receive the homage of flattering eyes and 
tongues; and even, so it was gossiped, to consider 
claims to replace the worthy citizen in her arms and 
favour. And there was no lack of such aspirants, for 
the fame of the widow's charms and her rich dower 
had travelled far beyond the City bounds; and many 
a gallant with a handle to his name was only too willing 
to leave Court and boudoir to fare eastward, by way 
of Temple Bar, on wooing bent. And these 
emissaries of Cupid were no callow youths, of empty 
head and purse; but men of substance, of discreet 
years, and of good standing in the world. 

Curiously enough, the very first batch of lovers that 
winged their way Cityward were all " birds," although 

34 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

not all gay in plumage. One was Sir Sackville Crow; 
another was a physician of repute, Raven by name, 
though not by nature; while number three was no other 
than Sir Heneage Finch, a grave and dignified 
Serjeant-at-law and Recorder of London a man, 
moreover, who, but two years earlier, had sat in the 
Speaker's Chair in the House of Commons. Elderly 
lovers all; but full of the fire and fervour of youth, 
and as keen to win a lady's hand as any Court beau 
of half their years. 

Of this trio, the advance-guard of an army of 
wooers, Sir Sackville Crow was first to make the 
running. He was a man of fine presence, with, it is 
said, the best-shaped leg in London town; and, more- 
over, was an expert in the art of love, as the chronicles 
of his earlier years prove. It was with the air of an 
assured victor that, decked in his gayest feathers, Sir 
Sackville began his pilgrimages to the City to do 
homage at the shrine of the fair widow. To his con- 
dolences Mistress Bennett lent a ready and gracious 
ear, for no one could play this role more effectively 
than the Treasurer of the Navy; but when his adroit 
tongue turned to lighter themes she looked coldly on 
his honeyed speeches and soulful eyes; and when, in 
spite of such warning, he went so far as to plead for 
" the prettiest hand in London City," her answer 
was as decisive as prompt. To quote the vulgar 

35 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

chronicle of the time, " he went away with a flea in his 
ear." 

To the Crow succeeded the Raven, nothing daunted 
by his predecessor's discomfiture. He was no man of 
sugary tongue and ogling eyes like his friend, Sir Sack- 
ville. He understood women; he had studied them 
for years in his West End consulting-room; and he 
knew none better that it was the masterful man to 
whom their hearts opened most readily. He resolved 
to carry the fortress of Mistress Bennett's heart by 
assault, without any preliminary trial of gentler means 
of capturing it. By a liberal use of his gold he had 
no difficulty in bribing her servants to be out of the 
way on a certain November night; and before Mistress 
Bennett had been many minutes comfortably tucked 
within the sheets, the daring doctor made his entry into 
her chamber. Never did foolish lover make a more 
fatal mistake. Before he had got his nose well within 
the room he was greeted with such shrieks of 
" Thieves! " and " Murder! " as woke the 
" Charleys " in Cheapside from their slumber, and 
brought them pell-mell to the scene of the disturbance. 

The recreant servants, whom he had bribed to 
remain at least neutral, rushed to the rescue of their 
mistress. The midnight intruder was caught like a 
rat in a hole, and ignominiously dragged off to gaol to 
answer for his outrage on decency. The next morning 

36 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he was hauled before the very last man he wished to 
see in such a capacity, none other than Sir Heneage 
Finch, Recorder of London, and one of his rivals for 
Mistress Bennett's hand. Was ever man so unfor- 
tunate ? Sir Heneage listened gravely to the serious 
charge chuckling, no doubt, inwardly; and, after 
reading the prisoner a severe lecture on his shameful 
conduct, committed him, without bail, for trial at the 
next Sessions, where a sentence of imprisonment 
effectually cooled his ardour, at least for widows. 

No sooner was Dr. Raven sent to quench his flames 
in durance than Sir Edward Bering, recking nothing 
of the disaster that had overwhelmed two rivals, pre- 
sented himself in the lists. Now Sir Edward was one 
of the biggest dandies of his day, with an unrivalled 
record as a lady-killer. With his flowing wig, 
dangling his clouded cane from his wrist, and 
flourishing his gold snuff-box in his hand; with his lace 
cravat, his beribboned breeches, and his atmosphere 
of delicate perfume, the Kentish Baronet had, he 
thought, but to come and see and conquer. 

But, assured of victory though he was, he was much 
too discreet to make any tactical blunders such as those 
which had proved fatal to his predecessors. He 
counted each step before he took it, lest a rash one 
should prove disastrous. He began by worshipping 
his lady at a distance with the " mute eloquence " of 

37 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

adoring eyes; and before he ventured into the citadel, 
sought to win its defenders to his side to make his 
path smooth. But the " outworks " proved difficult 
to take, as his ingenuous diary abundantly proves. 
Under date November 2Oth, he writes: " Edmund 
King. I adventured, but was denied. Sent up a 
letter, which was returned after she had read it." 
Unchecked by this first repulse, Sir Edward decided 
to see what a little judicious bribery would do. Thus 
the diary entries succeed one another: " November 
2ist I inveigled G. Newman with 205. November 
24th I did re-engage him (205.) . I did also oil the 
cash-keeper (205.). November 26th I gave 
Edmund Aspull (the cash-keeper) another 2os." 

Surely such liberal lubrication ought to make the 
machinery of conquest run smoothly; and it did for 
a time, at least; for on November 2;th, just a week 
after his first failure, he writes gleefully: " I sent a 
second letter, which was kept." So far, so good; but 
Sir Edward had not done yet with the outworks. A 
few days later, he writes, " I set Sir John Skeffington 
upon Matthew Cradock " an artful move, for 
Cradock was not only the widow's favourite kinsman, 
but her right-hand man, and thus a most valuable ally 
to secure. On the same day on which Cradock's 
favour was sought by proxy, Sir Edward adds to his 
entry, " The cash-keeper supped with me." 

38 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

The way now seemed clear for another step. Sir 
Edward decided that the time had come to seek a 
nearer approach to his divinity, and thus on November 
3Oth he writes: " I was at the Old Jewry Church and 
saw her both forenoon and afternoon "; and on the 
following day he made bold to send her "a third 
letter, which was also kept." On the following Sun- 
day so well had matters progressed Sir Edward was 
intercepted, on leaving St. Olave's Church, by George 
Newman, who whispered in his ear " Good news! 
good news! " and proceeded to inform him that 
Mistress Bennett " liked well his carriage, and that, 
if his lands were not already settled on his eldest son, 
there was good hope for him." No wonder the 
amorous Baronet was so delighted with such news that, 
as he says, " I gladly gave him another 205." 

Sir Edward was now so confident of victory that he 
could not resist the temptation to announce the news 
to his friend the Recorder, who not only affected to be 
rejoiced at his rival's good fortune, but gave him excel- 
lent advice how to continue his campaign, adding that 
he himself had quite abandoned all hope of winning 
the widow and had retired from the arena. How true 
this statement of the crafty man of law was the sequel 
will prove. 

Thus emboldened, Sir Edward now took his 
courage in his hands and prosecuted his suit in person. 

39 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

But alas! never was widow (or maid) so difficult to 
win. One day she was all sweetness and smiles, the 
next she was as frigid as an iceberg. She would and 
she wouldn't. She " didn't quite know her own 
mind," and he " must be more patient." Finally, 
when his patience was strained to the breaking point, 
and when all the pleadings and arguments of his 
friends proved unavailing to make the lady " toe the 
line," he retired in disgust, and vowed that he had 
" done with widows for ever." 

The fact that the City beauty proved so coy and 
elusive only served to whet the appetite of other suitors 
for so tantalising a prize. One gallant after another 
took up the running; all in turn to retire discomfited. 
Sir Peter Temple, of Stowe, came with his long 
lineage and broad acres to back him, and a Countess 
to plead his suit; but he was soon sent packing. * ' But, 
madam," he protested, " I have come all the way from 
Buckinghamshire to win a smile from your pretty lips. " 
" Then, sir," was the uncompromising answer, " I 
am afraid you must go back to Buckinghamshire." 
And he went. 

Lady Skinner sought to win the prize for her 
protege, Mr. Butler, a swarthy, if high-born, gentle- 
man. " I have worn black long enough," said 
Mistress Bennett; " I don't want more mourning in a 
husband." Sir Henry Mainwaring, with a pedigree 

40 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

as long as his purse was short, came, with the Countess 
of Bridgewater to lend the glamour of fashion and rank 
to his suit; but the widow declined to wed her money- 
bags to an empty pocket. And even my Lord Lumley, 
fresh to his coronet, although he had for supporter the 
lady's brother-in-law, fared no better. Five times a 
week his lordship's coach took him in state to St. 
Olave's Church to join his prayers with those of the 
widow, who affected to seek in piety a refuge from her 
legions of lovers. The Earl of Dorset, Lord Cham- 
berlain to the Queen, stooped to plead Lumley's suit; 
and Mistress Bennett went so far at last as to receive 
a ring from his hands. But the weeks dragged on, and 
still the longed-for ' ' yes ' ' refused even to falter from 
her lips, and my Lord Lumley in turn had to join the 
swollen ranks of the baffled. 

But in spite of such discouragement, the tide of 
lovers still continued to flow and ebb, while London 
held its sides in laughter. Then, on the heels of an 
announcement that Mistress Bennett had decided 
never to marry, but that she wished to devote her life 
to " good works," the bolt fell from the " blue." One 
fine morning in April, 1629, twelve months almost to 
a day after her tears had rained on Master Bennett's 
coffin, she slipped quietly away to St. Clement Danes' 
Church, and stood at the altar by the side of Sir 
Heneage Finch, ex-Speaker and Recorder of London. 

41 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

The tortoise had won the race; the man who had 
placidly looked on while his long train of rivals came 
to conquer and retired in defeat had been laying quiet 
siege to the citadel all the time, and to him the flag 
was at last lowered. 

Thus was the elusive widow led a second time to the 
altar, although her new lease of wedded life was 
destined to last no longer than two years. As the 
widow of plain Master Bennett neither her beauty nor 
her riches could have saved her from obscurity. As 
the wife of Sir Heneage Finch she found herself allied 
with noble houses, and she herself became the 
ancestress of a line of Marquises. 

Of her husband's seven sons, one was destined in 
later years to sit on the Woolsack and to wear a coronet 
as Earl of Nottingham. Her three stepdaughters all 
in turn found husbands in the sons of noble houses; 
while of her own two daughters by the Recorder, one 
blossomed into my Lady Conway, and has a proud 
place on the family tree of the Marquises of Hertford. 




THE COUNTESS OF ESSEX 

AFTERWARDS 

COUNTESS OF SOMERSET 



CHAPTER V 

THE CRIME OF A COUNTESS 

WHEN the Lady Frances Howard opened her eyes, 
one day in the year 1593, at her father's house near 
Saffron Walden, she took her place in a family-tree 
that had more than its share of black sheep. Every 
line of it recorded some name associated with deeds of 
violence or shame, and many an ancestor had lost his 
head to the executioner's axe. For five generations 
all but one of her father's immediate predecessors on 
that tree had ended their days in blood three of them 
on the headsman's block, and one, the first Duke of 
Norfolk, on Bosworth Field. Her father, Thomas 
Howard, first Earl of Suffolk, had no worse crime to 
his charge than embezzlement on a large scale; but her 
mother won an evil reputation as a pensioner of Spain, 
her country's chief enemy, and as a woman with very 
lax conceptions of morality. 

Nor does the black story end here; for of Frances 1 
seven brothers and two sisters children of the 
embezzler and the wanton scarcely one left a memory 
untarnished by some discreditable episode. Even her 
sister Elizabeth has come down to us as the woman 

43 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

who left another man's son to assert a false claim to 
her husband's Earldom of Banbury. 

With such blood in her veins it would have been 
strange if Frances Howard had carried a stainless 
name through life. But none could have dreamt, 
when she was playing so innocently in the nursery at 
Audley End, that she would take a place in history 
as one of the most infamous of her sex. Spending her 
early years partly in a rustic environment in Essex 
and partly at her father's house at Charing Cross, 
Frances grew up to a beautiful girlhood without 
exhibiting a sign of the evil that lay dormant in her. 
She was equipped with all the armoury that brings 
men to their knees beauty, gaiety, a rare charm 
of manner and she might, who knows, have played a 
pure and honourable part on the stage of life if she 
had not come at an impressionable age under the 
influence of her great-uncle, Lord Northampton. 

My Lord Northampton, who was now verging on 
seventy, was one of the most brilliant and charming 
men of his day scholar, wit, courtier. But with this 
early Howard taint in his blood, he seemed incapable 
of " running straight." He was a born intriguer, 
true to no cause that did not minister to his vanity or 
his purse; a roue among roues; and he found an almost 
fiendish pleasure in poisoning the minds and pervert- 
ing the morals of those on the threshold of life. It was 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the worst of ill-luck that his beautiful grand-niece 
should come under the fatal influence of a man who 
was as baleful as he was irresistible in his fascination. 
However the poison was administered, nothing is more 
certain than that it was his influence that largely gave 
Frances the bias to evil which her later life so tragically 
exhibited. 

Lady Frances had little opportunity to practise her 
armoury of male conquest. Before she was out of 
short frocks the news was published, " The Earl of 
Essex and the young Lord Cranborne shall marry two 
of Lord Suffolk's daughters at Court very shortly. 
They only stay for the King's coming, who is looked 
for in the next week." Of the brides-to-be, Frances 
had at the time only seen thirteen birthdays ; while her 
sister, Catherine, was a year younger. Of the bride- 
grooms, the Earl of Essex was a schoolboy of fourteen, 
and Lord Cranborne was barely eighteen. 

As for Robert Devereux, my Lord Essex, who alone 
concerns us of the two boy-bridegrooms, he was son 
of that ill-starred Earl who had, a few years earlier, 
ended his life on the scaffold. He had been restored 
to his father's forfeited honours; had been brought up 
with the King's own son (whom, by the way, he had 
once soundly smacked on the head with his racquet 
in a boyish quarrel) ; and had already, child as he was, 
been, dubbed an M.A. at Oxford. 

45 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Such was the husband to whom Lady Frances was 
to give her hand in a Royal palace, though her opinion 
of the match was never asked, and certainly her heart 
had no voice in the matter. The mockery of a 
marriage ceremony was performed at Court one 
January day in 1605-6; and the nuptials were cele- 
brated by a brilliant tournament and by a still more 
gorgeous masque, written by Ben Jonson, at which, 
we are told, " the men were clad in crimson, the 
women in white; they had every one a white plume of 
the richest heron's feathers, and were surpassing rich 
in jewels upon their heads." The festivities at an 
end, the youthful bride and groom returned to their 
respective homes; and it was not until more than five 
years later, after Essex had made the " grand tour," 
that they came together as man and wife. 

Such nuptials could scarcely prove otherwise than 
a fiasco, with an indifferent husband and a reluctant 
wife. Moreover, Lady Essex, while her husband was 
" gallivanting " at foreign Courts, had completely 
lost her heart to Robert Carr, the King's favourite, 
who had blossomed into my Lord Rochester, and was 
later to become Earl of Somerset a man of strikingly 
handsome person, a born courtier and Prince of 
gallants, who had made many a conquest before he 
enslaved Lord Essex's stay-at-home wife. 

4 6 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

It needed not this complication to make the wedded 
life of Essex and his Countess a pathetic failure. 
Although he treated his wife with unvarying kindness 
and courtesy, she returned nothing but coldness 
and insults; and she refused point-blank to play 
the role of wife to one man when another had her 
heart. 

If this had been the worst, it would have been 
tragedy enough. But my Lady Essex was by no 
means content with abuse and a contemptuous 
indifference. Her husband stood in the path of her 
pleasure; he must be removed. She consulted experts 
in witchcraft and magic, and paid them to practise their 
arts, with the double object of removing her husband 
and strengthening the passion of Rochester, her 
lover. 

To a Mrs. Turner, witch and poisoner, she wrote, 
" My lord is very well as ever he was, so you may see 
in what miserable case I am "; and to a Dr. Fornam, 
" wizard," she wrote, " My lord is lusty and merry, 
and drinks with his men. I think I shall never be 
happy in this world." As if such hints were not 
sufficient, we have it on the testimony of a Mary Woods 
that the Countess gave her a ring, with a promise of a 
thousand pounds, if she would procure a poison for the 
Earl ' ' that should not act within less space than three 
or fojur days." 

47 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

When poison and the black arts failed to achieve her 
sinister purpose she turned to divorce as a door of 
escape from one husband to the arms of another. And 
after many months of varying fortune, she ultimately 
succeeded in obtaining a decree of nullity, thanks 
largely to the King's support. On the very day on 
which she was thus made a free woman preparations 
began for a second marriage this time to her lover, 
the man of her treacherous heart Lord Rochester, 
whom, in honour of the event, King James now raised 
to the Earldom of Somerset. 

And seldom has the Court of England witnessed so 
splendid a marriage. The wedding-presents, a 
chronicler tells us, were " more in value and number 
than ever, I think, were given to any subject in this 
land " vessels of gold and silver (from a gold 
warming-pan to my Lady Shrewsbury's present of a 
gold basin and ewer, two gold pots and some " vessels 
all of gold ") and rich jewellery, worth many a 
" king's ransom." One gorgeous masque followed 
another; the Lord Mayor entertained bride and bride- 
groom, at the King's own request, at a regal banquet; 
and, to wind up the festivities, a " Masque of 
Flowers," of unrivalled beauty, was presented in the 
Banqueting House at Whitehall. 

Under such brilliant auspices did Lord and Lady 
Somerset's drama of wedded life open. But the drama 

4 8 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

was soon to be clouded by a terrible tragedy, which 
set the seal on Frances Howard's infamy. Ten days 
after the venal court had made a free woman of her, 
Sir Thomas Overbury died in agony in the Tower of 
London, and it began to be whispered that he had been 
poisoned. Sir Thomas, who had thus ended his days 
miserably and in tragedy, was one of the most accom- 
plished and high-minded men of his day. As a youth 
he had met and made a friend of Robert Carr (Earl of 
Somerset to-be) ; and through his influence had risen 
high in the King's favour. He was dubbed a knight, 
the ball of fortune was at his feet; but when Fortune 
was smiling its sweetest on him he made two fatal 
mistakes. 

He offended the Queen, and was banished from 
Court in consequence; more fatal still, he opposed the 
connection between his " fidus Achates " and the 
" base woman," Lady Essex. So strongly averse to 
it was he that he bade Rochester choose between his 
friend and his mistress. " Will you never leave the 
company of that base woman? " was his ultimatum. 
" Seeing you do so neglect my advice, I desire that 
to-morrow morning we may part, and that you will 
let me have that portion you know is due to me. Then 
I will leave you free to stand on your own legs." 

Thus Overbury made enemies not only of the 
Queen, but of his old friend and (especially) of the 

49 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

woman in the way of whose passion he stood thus 
resolutely. Even the King, in whose favour he had 
stood high, turned against him; and was easily induced 
by Rochester to commit him to the Tower, on the 
flimsy pretext that, when ordered to go on an Embassy 
abroad, he had refused. Thus we find Overbury a 
prisoner, and at the mercy of his enemies, one of whom 
at least never forgave an injury; and it was not long 
before their vengeance began to take shape. The first 
step was to have the Lieutenant of the Tower removed, 
and a more convenient " tool " put in his place. 
Northampton (who had his finger in this evil pie) 
arranged for the appointment of one of his creatures, 
Sir Gervase Elwes, to the office; with another creature, 
Richard Weston, as under-keeper. 

The way thus made clear, the campaign of 
vengeance and death opened. Weston first tried the 
effect of white arsenic and corrosive sublimate in tarts 
and jellies for the prisoner's use, bidding Elwes to say 
' ' that these tarts came not from me, ' ' and warning him 
not to give his wife or children any of them. But 
Overbury seemed to bear a charmed life. The 
poisons, it is true, made him very ill; but one after 
another he mysteriously survived them, thanks pro- 
bably to antidotes administered by his servant, who 
seems to have suspected the attempts to poison his 
master. Disgusted with these repeated failures Lady 

50 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Essex appealed to an apothecary, one James Franklin, 
who supplied her with seven different sorts of poison 
from aqua fortis to cantharides each of which in turn 
was administered to the prisoner; until, after weeks of 
cruel suffering and as gallant a fight for life as ever 
man made, death came to his release. 

The moment Northampton heard the " good news " 
he wrote to Elwes " Noble Lieutenant, if the 
knave's body be foul, bury it presently; I'll stand 
between you and harm ' ' ; and within a few hours of his 
death Overbury's body was placed in the earth; and 
Lady Essex, with a sigh of relief, resumed the prepara- 
tions for her next wedding. But the new Countess 
was not long left to enjoy the cup of pleasure so shame- 
fully procured. A new favourite, George Villiers, 
came to supplant her husband by the king's side; his 
star of ascendancy had fallen. The poison conspiracy 
was revealed, it is said by an apothecary's boy; and 
an investigation was opened. 

Lord and Lady Somerset, with all their fellow-con- 
spirators, were arrested and brought to trial, one after 
another, to make the well-earned journey to the 
scaffold from Mrs. Turner, who was hanged in 
yellow starched ruffs, and Sir Gervase Elwes, who 
paid for his share in the crime on Tower Hill, to 
Franklin, the apothecary, and Weston, the under- 
keeper. As for Lord Somerset and that arch-con- 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

spirator his wife, they were both sentenced to death, 
only, however, to receive the King's pardon, supple- 
mented in the case of the Earl with an allowance of 
4,000 a year! 

And now the curtain descends on this drama of 
passion and crime. Somerset and his Countess sur- 
vived their death sentence for many miserable years of 
life together in Chiswick House. They lived, we are 
told, to hate the sight of each other, and finally ceased 
to speak to each other. Thus in disgrace and un- 
happiness, to which were added the hourly tortures of 
a " loathsome disease," Frances Howard made her 
exit, one August day in 1632, from the stage of life on 
which she had played such an infamous part. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE ROMANCE OF THE SEA-CHILD 

THE Earls of Mar and Kellie have many treasured 
heirlooms at Alloa House and Kellie Castle, but none 
of which they are prouder than the wicker cradle and 
bundle of baby's clothes which recall a story as 
romantic as any to be found in the annals of the 
Peerage. 

One winter evening in the year 1 763, when the third 
of our Georges was comparatively new to his crown, 
Mr. Adam Gordon was sitting with his wife before a 
roaring fire in the hall of Castle Ardoch. It was a 
night of storm and deluge; the rain was lashing the 
window-panes, the wind was howling among the 
turrets and shrieking down the chimneys, the castle 
walls were trembling under the fury of the gale. 

" What a terrible night ! " said Adam Gordon to his 
wife, as he drew his chair nearer to the blazing logs. 
" There will be many a life lost to-night at sea, unless 
I am mistaken. It's the wildest storm I have known 
in my time." Scarcely had the words left his lips 
when through the pandemonium of the gale there came 
the low, faint boom of a cannon. " There!" he ex- 

53 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

claimed, as the sound, so full of portent, died away. 
" Did you hear that ? I knew it. There's a vessel on 
the rocks. God help those who are in her, for there 
is no hope for them ! " 

To summon his men-servants and, armed with lan- 
terns, to sally out into the dark night on the errand 
of mercy was the work of a few moments. In the 
teeth of the gale, drenched and buffeted, the handful 
of men fought their way to the beach, a few hundred 
yards distant, and with straining eyes looked out over 
the wild riot of waters. Yes; there, but a stone's throw 
away was the doomed ship, beating her life 
out on the cruel fangs of the rocks which guard 
the coast of Ross and Cromarty from the fury of the 
North Sea. 

That glance was sufficient; the vessel was indeed 
doomed. No boat could live for a moment in such a 
sea. All they could do was to wait and watch if by 
good chance any of the crew were washed ashore. 
Through the long dark hours of the night the patient 
vigil was kept ; the watchers saw the vessel break up, 
just as the first faint streaks of dawn stole over the 
sky. A few moments later a shout drew the scattered 
men to a distant part of the beach where one of their 
number was stooping over the strangest piece of 
flotsam that was ever flung ashore by an angry 
sea. 

54 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

It was a wicker cradle, of curious foreign-looking 
make ; and in it was lying a baby, with blue, open eyes 
of wonder, smiling up at the wild group of heads bent 
over it. The cradled infant thus miraculously flung 
ashore was all that the sea gave up from the ill-fated 
ship, save a few fragments of wreckage, none of which 
gave any clue to the identity of the vessel. 

It was a strange but happy procession that made its 
way back in the early morning to the hospitable shelter 
of Castle Ardoch, preceded by Adam Gordon with 
the sea-baby warmly tucked inside his overcoat, and 
followed by John Anderson, cradle in hand; and it 
was a warm welcome that the infant received from the 
motherly arms of Dame Gordon, who little dreamt as 
later she tucked it in the warm bed between her two 
little daughters that the waif of the sea was bringing 
to her house a coronet in each of her baby hands. She 
was destined, as this story will prove, to make a Coun- 
tess of each of her child-bedfellows in the years to 
come. 

Who was this child of the sea and the storm who 
had come thus dramatically into the hospitable home 
of the Gordons ? In vain did Adam and his lady try 
to solve the mystery. There was no clue or at least 
no clue that was of any use to the problem. That 
the wicker cradle, the frail bark which had brought 
the babe so miraculously over the raging waters, was 

55 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

from a foreign land there could be no doubt. But 
where was that land ? 

The child's clothing was beautiful in quality and 
texture; she was evidently the daughter of well-to-do 
parents; but it, too, furnished no clue beyond two 
embroidered and interwoven initials which conveyed 
no information as to identity. The wreck-baby was 
a complete mystery, as strange as the wonder of her 
advent; but she was none the less a welcome guest, 
who should be as carefully and lovingly tended as 
their own little girls. 

Thus the " Princess," as Adam Gordon used to 
call his sea-baby, found new parents in Adam and his 
good wife ; and never for one moment did they regret 
that black night of storm that had given her to them. 
Every year she grew in strength and beauty and win- 
someness. She was a little fairy who won all hearts, 
from those of her playmates and foster-sisters to the 
grim-visaged men-servants who to a man were the 
slaves of the little " Missie " they had saved from the 
sea. 

Thus happily the years passed. The " Princess " 
had blossomed into a lovely girl of sixteen ; her sisters, 
equally fair, were a few years older, when the curtain 
was raised on the second scene of this strange drama. 
Again it was a night of wild storm and disaster ; and 
again, through the thunders of wind and sea was heard 

56 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the boom of the distress-gun ; and once more, as six- 
teen years earlier, Adam Gordon and his men fared 
forth in the dark night on rescue bent. 

This time, as before, the vessel was ground to 
pieces on the deadly rocks ; and of all on board only 
one was yielded to the shore and to life by the greedy 
sea. It was a man, battered, bruised, and uncon- 
scious, lashed to a piece of wreckage. Happily, life 
still lingered, and the senseless man was borne swiftly 
to Castle Ardoch, restoratives were administered, and 
when consciousness returned he was put to bed. 

The following morning the second sole survivor of 
a wreck was able to thank the good Samaritans, his 
rescuers, and to explain who he was and how he came 
to be their guest. He was, he said, a Swedish mer- 
chant hailing from Gothenburg, and had been voyag- 
ing to Scotland when the storm flung his ship on the 
rocky coast of Ross and Cromarty. A few days later 
he was sufficiently recovered to join his host at the 
family meals, and thus to make the acquaintance of 
his daughters, and of their sister, the pretty sixteen- 
year-old " Princess." 

Then it was that Adam Gordon told him the story 
of that other night, many years earlier, which had 
brought such a welcome guest into his home, a story 
to which the stranger listened with growing interest 
and excitement. " That is indeed remarkable," said 

57 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the stranger on its conclusion ; " and to me of peculiar 
interest. I will tell you why. It is sixteen years 
since my sister left India in a vessel of which nothing 
more was ever heard with certainty. It was rumoured, 
however, that she had been wrecked on the Scottish 
coast. And what is more singular, my sister had with 
her a baby girl, an infant only a few months old. 
How strange it would be if this young lady," pointing 
to the " Princess," " should prove to be my lost sister's 
child, and thus my niece. May I see the cradle in 
which the child was flung ashore ?" 

The wicker cradle, which had been carefully pre- 
served, was brought for inspection; and as the mer- 
chant examined it his excitement increased. It was 
undoubtedly of foreign make, and might well have 
been Indian. " Have you any other clue?" he asked. 
The baby-clothes were now produced, and at sight of 
the embroidered initials the stranger exclaimed, " Yes, 
it must be so. Those are the initials of my sister and 
her husband. This young lady, whom, like myself, 
the sea has brought to your home is surely my niece, 
my dear sister's daughter!" 

Such was the dramatic scene of which Castle Ardoch 
was the setting one winter day in the year 1779. The 
discovery, however welcome to the Swedish merchant, 
was by no means equally welcome to Adam Gordon 

58 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and his family, who feared that now they would lose 
the girl whom they had learned to love so well. 

Nor were their fears misplaced, for the merchant 
proceeded to assert his claim to his niece. " It is," 
he said, " a poor return for your great kindness to try 
to rob you of one of your daughters. But I am com- 
paratively a rich man, with no child of my own; and 
I owe it to my dear sister to take her place as the 
natural guardian of her daughter. Will you at least 
allow her to come to me for a year? If, at the end of 
the year, she wishes to return to you, I will put no 
obstacle in her way." 

"Oh, I am so happy here!" pleaded the "Prin- 
cess." "Don't take me away!" In vain did Mr. 
and Mrs. Gordon, who, whatever the cost to them- 
selves, felt that she should not refuse such a tempting 
offer, add their persuasions to those of her uncle. 
And it was only on condition that one of her " sisters " 
should accompany her that she at last tearfully con- 
sented to leave for a time the home she loved. 

Thus it was that, when the merchant left Castle 
Ardoch, he took with him to Sweden, not only his 
niece, but one of his host's daughters, who thus found 
themselves translated to a new world of gaiety, far 
removed from the peaceful humdrum days of their 
Scottish home. At Gothenburg their life was a con- 

59 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

stant round of pleasure; and it was not long before 
the two beautiful girls had lovers at their feet. 

Among Miss Anne Gordon's wooers was Thomas 
Erskine, a wealthy merchant of Gothenburg, and a 
scion of an old Scottish house, who made a speedy 
conquest of Adam Gordon's daughter. It was not 
only a desirable match in all ways, but it was a true 
union of hearts; and when the wooer wrote to Scot- 
land for permission to make Anne his wife, a favour- 
able answer was not long in coming. 

But excellent as the match was, we may be sure that 
Anne Gordon, as she stood at the Gothenburg altar 
with her husband, little dreamt that she was one day 
to wear a Countess's coronet. She knew that Thomas 
Erskine was of noble birth. He could look back, on 
his family-tree, to a long line of distinguished ances- 
tors, headed by one Sir Robert, who was Scotland's 
Great Chamberlain when the second Alexander was 
king in the fourteenth century; and among those 
ancestors was a long list of Earls of Kellie. But 
between him and the Kellie coronet at that time were 
more than a dozen good lives, and if anyone had told 
him on his wedding-day that he would live to bear the 
title he would have laughed aloud. 

The coronet, however, came to Thomas Erskine 
when his wife had worn her wedding-ring a score of 
years ; and Adam Gordon's daughter Anne lived to be 

60 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a Countess, thanks to the little sea-waif who had, by 
such strange ways, led her to her husband. Nor was 
this the extent of the good fortune which the " Prin- 
cess " brought to the family of Castle Ardoch. 

Before Anne Gordon had been a wife a year her 
sister Johanna arrived in Gothenburg to spend a few 
months as her guest ; and there she met and learnt to 
love Methven Erskine, the handsome young brother 
of her sister's husband; and for the second time the 
wedding-bells were set a-ringing. 

Methven Erskine was also a substantial citizen of 
the Swedish town; and when, in process of time, 
Thomas, ninth Earl of Kellie and eighth Baronet, was 
laid in the family vault, Methven succeeded him in 
his titles and dignities, and made a Countess of Adam 
Gordon's second daughter. And thus it was that the 
sea-child brought two coronets with her in her wicker 
cradle when she was washed ashore that stormy night 
in the year 1763. 

As for the " Princess " herself, she could give 
coronets to others, but none came to her. Nor did 
she wish for one ; for she found all the happiness she 
desired in the plain untitled husband who won her 
heart. He was the richest of all Gothenburg's mer- 
chants; and when to his money-bags was added the 
fortune that fell to his wife on her uncle's death, the 
" Princess " more than justified Adam Gordon's pet 

61 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

name by a hospitality and, above all, a charity which 
made her at once the most splendid and beloved 
woman in Gothenburg. 



THE LADY ELLENBOROUGH 



CHAPTER VII 

A QUEEN OF THE DESERT 

THIRTY years ago a correspondent of the Viennese 
" German Gazette " wrote from Beyrout : " I met 
to-day an old acquaintance, the camel-driver, Sheik 
Abdul, and he told me that his wife was dead. Her 
name was once known all through the East. Sheik 
Abdul is the ninth husband of Lady Ellenborough, 
whom I met for the first time about thirty years ago 
at Munich, just after she had eloped with Prince 
Schwartzenberg from the residence of her first hus- 
band. She then went to Italy, where, as she told me 
herself, she was married six times in succession." 

Such was the singular story which, a generation or 
so ago, set tongues wagging from one end of Eng- 
land to the other, and gave a new zest to an old and 
almost forgotten scandal, the heroine of which had 
shocked Society by her unconventionalities as she had 
captivated it by her beauty and charms in the days of 
George IV. 

The heroine of this strange romance, one of the 

63 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

most remarkable in the annals of our Peerage, was 
cradled two years after Trafalgar. The only daugh- 
ter of Sir Henry Digby, G.C.B., a valiant Admiral 
of the Blue, and sister of the ninth Baron Digby, she 
could boast a noble lineage stretching back to the 
days when Everard Digby fell fighting valiantly for 
the Red Rose on Towton Field, leaving behind him 
seven sons, all of whom wielded deadly swords against 
Richard III. at Bosworth. Her mother was the Lady 
Jane Elizabeth, daughter of " Mr. Coke of Holkham," 
first Earl of Leicester, who had worn mourning for her 
first husband, Viscount Andover, before she was led 
to the altar by the embryo Admiral. 

In early childhood Jane Elizabeth Digby gave 
promise of that exceptional beauty which made con- 
quest so fatally easy to her in later years ; and also of 
the waywardness and defiance of convention which 
were to shock her family and friends and to supply so 
much material for the gossip-mongers. Long before 
she emerged from short frocks she was at once the 
idol and despair of her relatives, a wild and bewitch- 
ing madcap who laughed at all restraint and drove 
her parents to distraction by her escapades. Once she 
disappeared for days to share the roving life of a band 
of gipsies. On another occasion, it is said, she eloped 
with a handsome young groom, and was only rescued 

6 4 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

from Gretna Green after a wild chase over several 
counties. 

Such was the heroine of our story in the days of her 
girlhood, a ravishingly beautiful imp of mischief, 
laughing her way out of one escapade only to engage 
in another still more daring and unconventional; and, 
in spite of all her wildness and waywardness, making 
all who knew her her veriest slaves by the magic of her 
winsomeness and her beauty. Of her beauty at this 
time we have the following description: " Her eyes 
were large and of an exquisite blue such as I have 
never seen in any other human face; her lips, parted in 
a merry roguish smile, revealed teeth like flawless 
pearls; her face was a perfect oval, and her complexion 
had the delicate bloom of a peach. Her figure was 
instinct with vitality and an incomparable grace 
of movement. But her chief glory was her hair, which 
fell, a rippling golden cascade, down to her knees." 

That a maiden dowered with such rare charms had 
many a lover at her feet before she left the schoolroom 
goes without saying; but never was maid so tantalising 
and elusive. She would transport her wooers to 
heaven one moment, and plunge them in despair the 
next; when they protested undying devotion, she broke 
into peals of merry laughter and told them not to be 

so absurd." One by one the wooers retired from 

65 



ti 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the list in despair. But the little madcap was not 
destined to escape thus easily. 

Among her slaves was one of sterner metal, who 
determined to win the prize from all rivals, in spite of 
a heavy handicap. Edward, second Lord Ellen- 
borough, was not only nearly a score of years older 
than the maid he set himself to win, but he had already 
worn mourning for one wife, a daughter of the Mar- 
quis of Londonderry. He was, too, grave beyond his 
years, and a man of no great physical attractions. In 
spite, however, of his handicap, he laid such persistent 
siege to the young lady's heart, and made such effective 
use of an eloquent tongue and his gift of diplomacy, 
that one September day in 1824 the wedding-bells were 
set a-ringing, and the madcap left her school-books to 
become my Lady Ellenborough. 

It would have been well, however, if my lord had 
been less resolute in his wooing, or had taken his heart 
and his coronet elsewhere. The grave, almost 
middle-aged statesman, who was later to rule over 
India and the King's Navy, had too little in common 
with his high-spirited girl-wife to make the nuptials 
a success. Trouble began almost before the honey- 
moon had waned; and the climax was reached when 
handsome, dark-eyed Prince Schwartzenberg came on 
the scene, and brought the battery of his fascinations 
to bear on the lovely and unhappy wife. 

66 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

To such a situation there could be but one ending. 
Lady Ellenborough had neither the wish nor the power 
to resist the seductions of the Prince and the prospect 
of escape from her misery which he offered her. 
Within two years of wearing the orange-blossom for 
one man she ran away with his successor in her affec- 
tions; and, four years later, the outraged husband 
sought the aid of Parliament to dissolve a union which 
should never have been entered into. 

For a few years Lady Ellenborough lived more or 
less happily with her Prince, to whom she bore two 
children; until her dream ended in a tragic awakening. 
The Prince, wearied at last of her charms, basely 
deserted her; and the unhappy woman, divorced by her 
husband and now abandoned by her lover, fled to Italy 
to hide her shame and her sorrow . Of her story during 
the next few years nothing appears to be known with 
certainty. It may be true, as stated by the corres- 
pondent of the " German Gazette,'* " that she found 
in Italy half-a-dozen husbands in quick succession," 
although this story is not supported by her friend and 
champion, Isabel, Lady Burton, who merely says, " I 
am afraid she led a life for a year or two over which it 
is kinder to draw a veil . ' ' The truth, it is to be feared, 
is one which will not bear too close scrutiny. Nor, 
when she left Italy, does her history for a time become 
any clearer. The only light on it (and probably a 

67 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

doubtful one) is thrown by the " German Gazette " 
correspondent, who says: " In 1848 I met her at 
Athens, where she concluded an eighth marriage with 
a Greek Colonel, Count Theodoki. This, however, 
lasted only for a short time." 

It is to Lady Burton that we must look for an 
authentic account of the later history of this remark- 
able woman, which far surpasses in romance all that 
preceded it. It was while Lady Burton was living at 
Damascus, during her husband's Consulate there, that 
she first met our vagrant heroine; and, like everyone 
else, fell under the spell of her charms. 

" Among the most interesting of all the personalities 
who attended my receptions," her ladyship records in 
her diary, " was Lady Ellenborough, known at 
Damascus as the Honourable Jane Digby El Mezrab. 
She was a most romantic and picturesque personality; 
one might say she was Lady Hester Stanhope's 
successor." 

After outlining her history as far as we have followed 
it, Lady Burton continues: " She then tired of Europe, 
and conceived the idea of visiting the East, and of 
imitating Lady Hester Stanhope and other European 
ladies, who became more Eastern than the Easterns. 
She arrived at Beyrout, and went to Damascus, where 
she arranged to go to Bagdad, across the desert. For 
this journey a Bedouin escort was necessary, and the 

68 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

conduct of this devolved on Sheik Mijwal, a younger 
brother of the Mezrab tribe. On the journey the 
young Sheik fell in love with this beautiful woman, and 
she fell in love with him. The romantic picture of 
becoming a queen of the desert suited her wild and 
roving fancy. She married him, in spite of all opposi- 
tion, according to Mohammedan law. At the time I 
came to Damascus she was living half the year in a 
house just within the city gates; the other half of the 
year she passed in the desert in the tents of the Bedouin 
tribe, living absolutely as a Bedouin woman. When I 
first saw her she was a most beautiful woman, though 
sixty-one years of age. She wore one blue garment, 
and her beautiful hair fell in two long plaits to the 
ground." 

It is an eloquent tribute to the enduring beauty and 
fascinations of this singular woman that, on the verge 
of old age, she could so captivate this young Arab that 
he not only fell headlong in love with her, but was 
willing to divorce his Moslem wives in order to marry 
her. But surely never in the history of any aristocracy 
was there such a strange and ill-assorted union as this 
between the lovely, high-bred daughter of centuries 
of noble ancestors and the " dirty little black," as 
Lady Burton describes him in one entry in her diary. 

" I went to see her one day," her ladyship records; 
" and when he opened the door to me I thought at 

69 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

first he was a native servant. I could understand her 
leaving a coarse, cruel husband, much older than her- 
self, whom she never loved; I could understand her 
running away with Schwartzenberg; but the contact 
with that black skin I could never understand. Her 
Sheik was very dark. All the same, he was a very 
intelligent and charming man in any light but as a 
husband. That made me shudder! " 

That Lady Ellenborough was deeply in love with 
her dusky consort there can be no question. She was 
the slave of his every wish. When in the desert, she 
used to milk his camels, prepare his meals, stand and 
wait on him as he ate, wash his hands, face, and feet; 
and she gloried in discharging these menial offices for 
a man who seemed unworthy to tie her shoelace. 

In spite of this daily degradation and the constant 
association with the semi-savages of her husband's 
tribe, Lady Ellenborough " never lost anything of the 
English lady, nor the softness of a woman. She was 
always," we are told, " the perfect lady in sentiment, 
voice, manners, and speech. She never said anything 
you could wish otherwise. She kept all her husband's 
respect, and was the mother and queen of his tribe." 
And her life, apart from such menial work as her con- 
ception of wifely duties imposed on her, was that of a 
highly-refined, cultivated English lady. She occu- 
pied herself with painting, sculpture, or music, in all 

70 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

of which she was highly proficient; she tended her 
flowers, and was devoted to her Arab mares, on which 
she loved to race over the desert, with flushed cheeks, 
sparkling eyes, and her glorious hair floating behind 
like a golden pennon as wild and untrammelled a 
creature as in the long gone days when she galloped 
her pony over the fields and fences of England. 

Although her eyes would fill with tears when speak- 
ing to Lady Burton of England, her people, and old 
times; and although they would light up with glory at 
the very mention of Schwartzenberg, who was beyond 
doubt the love of her life, she confessed that her 
happiest years were those spent with her Arab husband 
on the outskirts of Damascus, or leading the free, 
roving life of the desert. 

At Damascus, indeed, she reverted for six months 
of each year to a semi- European life. She was highly 
popular not only with the small European colony there 
" we all flocked around her with affection and 
friendship," one of them says but with the natives, 
who rendered to her the homage due to a great and 
gracious lady; and to all alike she was equally charm- 
ing. It was only to strangers that she was at all re- 
served. Indeed, she refused to see anyone who did 
not bring a letter of introduction from a friend or a 
relative. " But this," to quote Lady Burton again, 
" did not hinder every ill-conditioned passer-by from 

71 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

boasting of his intimacy with her, and recounting the 
untruths which he invented -pour se fa'ire valoir, or to 
sell his book or newspaper at a better profit." 

Between these two remarkable women a deep and 
lasting affection sprang up in these Damascus days, a 
friendship so intimate that Lady Ellenborough con- 
fided to the Consul's wife the task of writing her 
biography, which she dictated to her day by day. 
" She did not spare herself," says Lady Burton, 
" dictating the bad with the same frankness as the 
good. I was pledged not to publish this until after 
her death and that of certain relatives." 

When in later years a notice of her death appeared 
in the " German Gazette," Lady Burton was first in 
the field to still the voice of scandal by paying an 
eloquent tribute to her friend. " To the last," she 
says, " she was fresh and young; beautiful, brave, re- 
fined and delicate. Her heart was noble; she was 
charitable to the poor. She fulfilled all the duties of 
a good Christian lady and an Englishwoman." The 
report, however, was premature, circulated, it is said, 
by one of her ladyship's enemies, and was contradicted 
by Lady Ellenborough herself, who wrote to a friend 
in England to say that so far from being dead she was 
enjoying the best of health, and hoped to survive her 
obituary-notice many years. 

As a matter of fact, she survived her reported death 

72 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

nearly nine years, leaving many devoted friends and 
admirers to mourn her loss, and happy to the last in 
her Bedouin life. " She had but one fault (and who 
knows it was hers?)," Lady Burton says. " Let us 
hide it, and shame those who seek to drag up the 
adventures of her wild youth to tarnish so good 
a memory." 



73 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE POET AND THE COUNTESS 

OF the many women who in turn caught Lord Byron's 
volatile fancy and enslaved his heart none is invested 
with quite the same glamour of romance as Teresa 
Guiccioli, the lovely Italian of whom, if her love was 
not " Byron's best reward," it is true that " His 
laurels twine about her name." 

It was when Byron, driven from England by the 
storm of obloquy that followed his wife's desertion, 
was seeking a refuge and distraction on the Continent 
that he met the woman who was destined to play such 
a conspicuous part in his life's drama. Disgusted 
with the world, heart-sick of its vanities and dis- 
illusions, and craving, as he always craved, the love of 
woman, he found in Teresa Guiccioli a new savour to 
life, and a passion and romantic temperament which 
matched his own. 

At the time of the first meeting of these two lovers, 
Teresa had seen but sixteen summers. The daughter 
of Count Gamba, an Italian nobleman, she had only 
left convent walls a year when her hand was given to 
Count Guiccioli, a man of large possessions, but older 

74 




THE COUNTESS GUICCIOLI 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

than her own father. The Count had already buried 
two wives when he led his schoolgirl bride to the altar; 
and it was perhaps inevitable that this union of a 
middle-aged widower to a high-spirited and beautiful 
girl on the threshold of womanhood should give small 
promise of happiness. Teresa's pretty head was full 
of romance; released from the dreariness of the con- 
vent, she was eager to drink deep of her new freedom 
and pleasure; and there was not a single craving that 
her twice-widowed husband was able to satisfy. 

She had a liberal share of the supreme dower of 
beauty eyes large, languishing, and as deeply blue 
as the skies of her native land; " amazingly long eye- 
lashes, arched eyebrows, wickedly pretty teeth; and a 
mass of magnificent hair so absolutely golden that if a 
guinea-gold fillet of the deepest yellowness ever seen 
in gold had been put about her head, the tress and the 
ornament would have been precisely the same hue and 
quality of colour." Her neck, shoulders, arms, and 
bust were superb in their modelling. Such was Count 
Guiccioli's third wife one of the fairest of Italy's 
daughters when chance led to her the steps of the 
man of whom Sir Walter Scott wrote, " the beauty of 
Byron is one which makes one dream." 

It was Fate that brought together this supremely 
lovely girl and the handsomest man of his age a man, 
moreover, skilled in all the arts of love, a poet of 

75 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

European fame, and the hero of a hundred romantic 
stories, as well known in Italy as in the England 
whose dust he had shaken off his feet. Each had 
made a loveless match, and each empty heart was 
yearning for its ideal lover. 

It was one day in the autumn of 1818, at one of the 
Countess Benzoni's receptions in Venice, when Teresa 
had worn her uncongenial wedding-ring but half a 
year, that the fateful meeting took place. The 
Countess had been taken to the reception, much 
against her will, by her husband. She was ennuyee 
and in no mood to be amiable to anyone. When his 
hostess asked the poet if she might introduce him to 
the Countess he consented with ill-grace. He had no 
wish to make new acquaintances. " No," he said, 
" I cannot know her " adding with a touch of 
sarcasm, " She is too beautiful." 

The introduction made, a few minutes sufficed to 
revolutionise life for both. The superlative loveliness 
and charm of the girl- Countess made a slave of the 
poet: Byron's " matchless beauty " changed the 
whole world for her. Seldom has passion blazed into 
flame with such fatal quickness. " At parting," the 
Countess says, " Lord Byron wrote something on a 
paper and handed it to me." What that " some- 
thing " was we do not know; but we know that from 
that first meeting the " die was cast." No day passed 

76 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

without its sweet hours together until, after eleven days 
of " fearful joys," the Count left Venice for his annual 
visit to his Romagnese estates, taking his wife with 
him. 

The lovers were separated and disconsolate. 
Teresa, we are told, fainted three times on the first 
day's journey; but never failed to write to her absent 
poet at every stage. As for Byron, he spent a leaden 
month in Venice, vainly trying to drown his sorrows 
in drink, until, unable to bear his exile longer, he in 
turn started for Ravenna, pouring out his soul in 
poetic yearnings on the way. 

When at last he reached the goal of his desires he 
learnt, to his dismay, that his beloved Countess was 
seriously ill. He was distracted with grief and alarm. 
The unsuspecting Count, hearing of his arrival, invited 
him to the palace. " It will distract my wife in her 
illness," he said; and Byron was relatively happy 
again. He was near her, even when he could not see 
her; and that was bliss for him. He spent hours poring 
over medical books, and gave the Count no peace until 
he had summoned Aglietti, the most famous doctor in 
all Italy. 

For two months the Countess lay on her bed of sick- 
ness. Byron was convinced that she was in consump- 
tion, and that she would surely die and leave him. " I 
never even could keep alive a dog that I liked or that 

77 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

liked me," he groaned; and, to find a vent for his grief 
and despair, wrote reams of verses, such as 

" I heard thy fate without a tear, 
Thy loss with scarce a sigh ; 
And yet thou wert surpassing dear, 
Too loved of all to die." 

"I see my Dama every day," Byron wrote to 
Murray. " I do not know what I should do if she 
died; but I ought to blow my brains out, and I hope I 
should." 

Byron might have spared himself such tragedy, for 
within two months his Countess had made a sur- 
prisingly rapid recovery, and was her radiant self 
again, laughing at all his fears, and no doubt rejoicing 
in such evidences of her conquest. His wife now re- 
stored to health, the Count prepared to move on to 
Bologna. The poet, as an alternative, proposed to 
his lady-love that they should fly together; while she, 
dreading the disgrace of leaving her husband, sug- 
gested that she should feign death, allow herself to be 
committed to the vault, and then should escape secretly 
to his arms, free to spend the rest of her life with the 
man she adored. 

Both projects, however, failed; and we find his lord- 
ship writing, " My mistress dear, who has fed my heart 
upon smiles and wine for the last two months, set off 
for Bologna with her husband this morning; and it 

78 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

seems that I follow her at three to-morrow morning. I 

cannot tell how our romance will end " After a 

few more days of stolen happiness together, the restless 
Count was off again on his journeys, this time to his 
Romagnese estates; and Byron was left disconsolately 
behind, " alternating between fury and acute depres- 
sion." Day after day he visited the deserted home of 
his vanished love, wandering through the rooms made 
sacred by her presence, turning over her books and 
writing in them. 

In her copy of " Corinne " he writes a long letter to 
his (l dearest Teresa," in which he says: " I have read 
this book in your garden. My love, you were absent, 
or else I could not have read it. You will recognise 
the handwriting of him who passionately loved you; 
and you will divine that over a book which was yours 
he could only think of love. In that word, beautiful 
in all languages, but most so in yours Amor mio is 
comprised my existence here and hereafter my 
destiny rests with you; and you are a woman, seventeen 
years of age, and two out of a convent. I wish that 
you had stayed there with all my heart, or at least that 
I had never met you in your married state. But all 
this is too late; I love you and you love me. But / 
more than love you. . . ." 

In the following month the Count returned to 
Bologna with his wife, only to start again for Ravenna; 

79 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

this time leaving her behind him, to Byron's delight. 
This was a golden opportunity not to be lost by the 
lovers. As soon as the Count was well out of the 
way, they left Bologna for Venice, where they made 
their home together for a few blissful weeks at the 
poet's country villa at La Mira; and here Byron first 
began to show signs of being a little weary of his 
Countess. 

When Moore paid a visit to Venice he found him 
greatly changed. He had grown stout, was wearing 
a moustache, and on his long hair he wore a most 
eccentric headgear. He made no concealment of the 
fact that he was bored, and hailed Moore's arrival as 
at least a temporary escape from fetters which, however 
golden, had become irksome. He even proposed to 
leave his Countess, to accompany his friend to Rome; 
but Moore put his foot down. ' You cannot leave 
her in such a position," he said; " it would be most 
humiliating to her." 

A little later we find him writing to Murray, " I 
have got the poor girl into a scrape; and as neither her 
birth nor her rank, nor her connections by birth and 
marriage are inferior to my own, I am in honour bound 
,to support her through." Satiety had now set in, and 
passion had degenerated to a belated sense of honour. 
Lady Caroline Lamb had described Byron, once her 
ardent lover, as " mad, bad, and dangerous to know "; 

80 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and the Countess Guiccioli was to learn how true the 
description was. 

At this stage the Count, whose suspicions had slept 
too long, demanded the restoration of his wife. 
" Count Guiccioli comes to Venice next week," Byron 
wrote to Hoppner; " and I am requested to consign 
his wife to him, which shall be done. What you say 
of the long evenings at the Mira or Venice reminds me 
of what Curran said to Moore. ' So I hear you have 
married a pretty woman and a very good creature, too 
an excellent creature. Pray now, how do you 
pass your evenings? 1 It is a of a question." 

When her husband arrived at Venice to claim her, 
the Countess wept and raged and pleaded but she 
had to go, and once more she and her still beloved poet 
were separated; and Byron, no doubt secretly glad to 
be thus easily rid of her, prepared to return to Eng- 
land, and, if possible, to arrange a reconciliation with 
his wife. Meanwhile Teresa, love-sick as ever, 
fretted and pined, and at last made herself so seriously 
ill that her husband, in great alarm, sent a letter to 
Byron begging him to come to her. 

When the summons arrived Byron was on the point 
of starting for England. He was, in fact, about to 
step into the gondola, in which his luggage had been 
placed, when the Count's imploring letter was placed 
in hi hand. The next day he was back in the toils, 

81 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and writing to Murray, " Your Blackwood accuses me 
of treating women harshly. It may be so; but I have 
been their martyr. My whole life has been sacrificed 
to them and by them. " It was in such a spirit that the 
poet returned to the side of the woman to whom a few 
months earlier he had written, " I more than love you. 
. . . . My destiny rests with you." 
For some weeks we now find him an unwilling guest 
in the Guiccioli palace bored to death, and writing, 
" I came here because I was called, and will go the 
moment I see what may render my departure proper. 
My attachment has neither the blindness of the 
beginning nor the microscopic accuracy of the close of 
such attachments." Even the blind eyes of the 
Countess were at last being opened to the truth of 
Caroline Lamb's statement, " Oh, better far to have 
died than to have listened to Glenarvon! " 

But emancipation for both was now drawing near. 
The Count insisted that his wife should dismiss her 
lover. The Countess laughed in his face, and retired 
to her father's house, where she rarely caught any 
glimpse of her lover. She wrote pitiful appeals to 
him, when her husband threatened to put her into a 
convent. " Byron! I am in despair! If I must 
leave you here without knowing when I shall see you 
again, if it is your will that I should suffer so cruelly, 
I am resolved to remain." 

82 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Once more he joined her at Pisa writing to 
Moore, " I set out most unwillingly, foreseeing the 
most evil results for all." But he chafed more and 
more against his fetters. He longed to escape to 
Greece, to take part in the struggle for freedom that 
was raging there. He was sick of love as of poetic 
fame, and was now dying to win laurels with his sword. 
On the night of July I3th, 1822, he went on board the 
Hercules, which was to sail for Greece at sunrise. A 
storm compelled the captain to put back to port, and 
Byron decided to look once more on the woman he had 
loved and betrayed; but when he knocked at the door 
of her villa he was told, " The Signora had departed." 
The house was still and dark; and it was with a sigh 
of relief that he walked away. A few hours later he 
was sailing to " where glory waited him," and 
writing, " I am better now than I have been for 
years." 

He never saw the Countess again. Nine months 
after he had turned his steps from her darkened and 
desolate villa he drew his last breath at Missolonghi. 



CHAPTER IX 

A RIGHT HONOURABLE " JACK TAR " 

MANY of our Peers have come to their coronets and 
ancestral estates by capricious turns of the wheel of 
Fortune ; but not one of them all under circumstances 
so full of romance and tragedy as gave a seat in the 
House of Lords to His Excellency the Earl of Aber- 
deen, Viceroy of Ireland, one January day forty-four 
years ago. This strange story is now almost for- 
gotten, but there are some who never see the 27th 
day of January on the calendar without paying a 
tribute of regret to George, sixth Earl, over whose 
brief life the waters of a distant sea closed on that ill- 
fated day in 1870. 

It was to a proud heritage that George Hamilton 
Gordon was born one December day seventy years 
ago. He was, if he lived, the assured heir to the titles 
of Earl, Viscount, and Baron, and to the large estates 
which were then enjoyed by his grandfather, the fourth 
lord. He had in his veins the blood of numbers of 
well-born ancestors, from the days when Patrick 
Gordon of Methlic played a leading part in Scotland 
under the first James; and he himself would be the 

8 4 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

sixth of a line of Earls who had mated with the 
daughters of great Scottish houses. 

Such was the heritage of George Gordon, who was 
fated, although the Earldom was then his, to end his 
days as a seaman before the mast of a small trading- 
vessel, and disguised by a name not his own, before 
he had seen his thirtieth birthday. 

As a boy, this heir to the Aberdeen honours was not 
as other boys of noble birth. There was a wayward, 
nomadic strain in his blood which no parental frowns 
or correction could control. Long before he had 
reached his 'teens he announced his intention to be- 
come a sailor. He was never happy except when he 
was on the sea ; and, we are told, he would steal away 
from the castle that was his home and spend night 
after night with the herring-fishermen of Boddom, 
slipping back to bed early the next morning before the 
castle was awake. His chosen companions were the 
fisher-lads and men; his favourite haunts the quay 
and the beach; and his greatest delight a seat in a 
boat. 

For rank and ceremonial he cared not a fig. To the 
fisher-folk of Boddom he was just plain " Geordie 
Gordon " ; and plain Geordie he consistently remained 
to his last day, whether he was known in the Peerage- 
books as Baron Haddo (a courtesy title which was his 
while still in the 'teens), or as the Right Honourable 

85 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the Earl of Aberdeen, double Viscount and fourfold 
Baron of his later years. 

But much as he yearned for the free, unconventional 
life of the sea, he was denied all opportunity of tasting 
it so long as his grandfather or father was alive. And 
it was only when his father's death made a free man of 
him that he was able to realise his life's ambition. 
One January day in 1866 the Earl (for such he now 
was) said " Good-bye " to his mother and sisters and 
sailed from Liverpool, ostensibly on a visit to his 
uncle, the Hon. Arthur Gordon, who at the time was 
Governor of New Brunswick. 

If it were possible to cure a landsman of his passion 
for the sea, that voyage should surely have cured 
Lord Aberdeen ; for the passage lasted through forty- 
one days of almost unbroken tempest. But the howl- 
ing of the gale and the creaking of the ship were as 
music to his lordship, who landed in New Brunswick 
more determined than ever to forget his Earldom in 
the rollicking life of a sailor. 

For a month he was his uncle's guest, feted, much 
to his disgust, as a British nobleman. Then one day 
he disappeared ; and as " George Osborne " we soon 
find him working before the mast on an ocean tramp 
bound for the Canaries. 

What his fellow-sailors thought of the new recruit 
we learn from one Hawkins, who says : " A person of 

86 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the name of George Osborne joined the ship as a sea- 
man. Osborne and I were in the same watch. We 
became very intimate. I had myself enjoyed a good 
education, and I soon found that he was much my 
superior in that, but we took to each other. When 
Osborne joined the ship he was not dressed as a 
sailor, and I was surprised to find that he had shipped 
as one. His hands were tender, and they soon got 
blistered. Mine were then in a similar state, and we 
joked about it. But he was always active, willing, 
and energetic, and took a fair share of all the work. 
He made himself most popular with officers and crew. 
He told me ' Osborne ' was an assumed name, and 
that his real name was ' Gordon,' but he said I must 
not mention it on board the ship." 

Such was the impression George Osborne, seaman 
and Earl, created on his mates on board the brig 
R. Wylie; and this excellent character he maintained 
to the last that of a willing worker, a genial, kind- 
hearted sailor, and a good " pal." All the grit of the 
Gordons was required in those early, rough days of 
sailor-life; and it carried George Osborne triumph- 
antly through them. 

From the brig R. Wylie he next found himself 
among the crew of the schooner Arthur Burton, carry- 
ing a cargo of corn to Vera Cruz ; and this is the testi- 
moay paid to Osborne by a shipmate called Small : 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

" I observed that Osborne, in helping to discharge the 
cargo at Vera Cruz, did not appear to work like a man 
who had been used to it. His hands seemed soft, and 
his legs seemed to totter when carrying the sacks of 
corn. But he never gave in; but he said to me he 
could not expect to carry as long as one of us fellows 
could." 

Not one of the shipmates seemed to have had any 
suspicion of the rank of Osborne. They recognised, 
naturally, that he was their superior in education and 
probably in social status ; but if anyone had told them 
that " Gentleman George " (as his nickname was) was 
a great Scottish nobleman we may be sure they would 
have laughed loud and long. 

Small, who was on greater terms of intimacy with 
Osborne than any of his fellows, supplies an amusing 
confirmation of this fact; for when, later, he was pro- 
moted to the rank of mate on the schooner Zeyla, he 
says : " The mate divides the watches with the cap- 
tain. As mate, it was my duty to select one man to 
be in my watch; and I selected George for this pur- 
pose. I knew I could chat freely with him, though I 
was an officer. He would not take advantage of it as 
many men would." 

Could anything be more deliciously humorous than 
this naive confession ? The mate of a tramp-schooner 
chooses an Earl for his watch, because, forsooth, his 

88 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

lordship would not take any advantage of the intimacy 
of his superior officer ! 

But to return. At Vera Cruz Osborne had the first 
of many narrow escapes from death. The Mexican 
war was raging at the time he was helping to unload 
a cargo of corn, and the shells of the bombarders 
were shrieking past his ears. On one occasion a 
cannon-ball struck a building within a few feet of 
where he was standing. " Until the firing ceased," 
he wrote to his mother, the Countess, " I remained 
stationary, with my head through the hole the ball 
had made ! I thought it unlikely that another shot 
would come just to that same spot; but while I was 
there I saw seven people killed." 

A few months later death was again on Osborne's 
track. While his vessel was lying in Philadelphia 
harbour, a terrible fire broke out in the middle of the 
night and, as he tells his mother, " all on board would 
have been burned up if it had not been for another 
vessel that gave the alarm." 

But George Osborne was by no means content to 
remain a simple seaman. Between two of his voyages 
he spent four months at Boston, studying navigation 
at the Nautical College there ; and he made such good 
use of his opportunities that he received from the 
authorities a certificate of qualification as first-officer 
of any merchant ship. It was during this period of 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

study that Osborne, Earl, Viscount, and Baron, re- 
ceived the following " character " from a riding- 
master in whose house he had lodged : 

" To whom it may concern. This is to certify 
that Mr. George H. Osborne has lived in my 
house for the past four months, and I can most 
cheerfully recommend him as a young man of 
good habits and kind disposition. F. E. PEAR- 
SON." 

One can almost see his lordship's quiet smile as he 
pocketed this testimonial to his virtues. 

Of the Earl's simple tastes and kindly disposition 
at the time, a carpenter friend, called Green, supplies 
the following particulars : " He was very fond of read- 
ing and of music. He used to play very often on the 
piano in my house. He was very good to children. 
My wife had a little sister who was often in the house, 
and George used to take a great deal of notice of her, 
and would often buy her little presents." 

So thrifty, too, was he that out of his small earnings 
he religiously set apart a portion for a " nest-egg," 
which in time amounted to fifty dollars. Once, how- 
ever, he yielded to the temptation to draw two cheques, 
for ;ioo each, on his Scottish bankers a weakness 
which he thus deplored to his mother : " I have never 
had any self-respect since I found means to get that 
money. I have never had any pleasure in life since. 

90 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

I despise myself for my foolish weakness. I shall 
never again hold up my head." 

His letters to his mother, whom he loved passion- 
ately, are full of revelations of a sweet nature. A 
fear runs through them that he may never see her 
again. " How many times," he writes, " has this 
thought come to me in the dark and cheerless night 
watches ; but I have to drive it from me as too dread- 
ful to think of. I wonder where you are now, and 
what are you doing? I know you are doing some 
good, and that you are a blessing to all around you." 

Those home letters record strange adventures and 
more than one narrow escape from death ; as when the 
vessel he was in, " deeply loaded and very leaky," 
water-logged till she lay over on her beam-ends, 
struggled for seventeen hours in a raging sea, 
threatening every moment to founder. When he 
thought his last hour had come, " God, in His mercy," 
intervened for his safety. And through all these 
periods of stress and danger his one thought was for 
his distant mother, to whom he sends his " never-dying 
love." 

So obsessed was he with the terrible fear that he 
would never see her again, that after three years of 
seafaring life he decided to return to Scotland, to re- 
sume his rank and its duties. One more voyage he 
would make this time in the Hera from Boston to 

9* 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Melbourne; and this should be the last. But, alas, 
for his dreaming and his hopes ! It proved indeed to 
be his last. The Hera set sail from Boston harbour 
on the 2 ist January, 1870. Six days later George 
Osborne was washed overboard and perished in the 
sea. 

The story of the tragedy is thus told by the ship's 
captain. "We sailed on the 2ist of January. We 
had very bad weather indeed ; on the morning of the 
27th of January I was alarmed in my cabin by the cry 
of ' a man overboard.' I rushed on deck and found 
that the man overboard was Osborne. Everything 
that my experience could suggest was done to save 
him. Ropes and planks were thrown to him. The 
boat was cleared away ; but it was impossible to launch 
her. The waves were very high. 

" I saw Osborne struggling in the water. I heard 
him cry out; but the cries soon ceased. The water 
was very cold, and even a good swimmer must have 
perished very soon." 

The second mate of the Hera gives an account of 
the earlier stages of this catastrophe. " We were 
lowering the mainsail," he says. " Osborne and I 
were side by side, hauling on the same rope. I was 
between him and the sea. The ship gave a heavy 
roll ; the downhaul got taut. Osborne and I were 
both caught in the bight of the downhaul. The first 

92 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

shock came on him, because he was nearer the sail 
than I. I had time to lay myself down, and the rope 
passed over me, while Osborne was dragged across me 
and into the sea. It was the work of a second." 

Thus perished, in the prime of his days, one of the 
truest gentlemen who have ever graced the British 
Peerage. His fears had proved only too true; for 
never on earth should he see again the mother he 
loved so deeply, and who was left to carry a broken 
heart to the grave. And thus it was that forty years 
and more ago the Aberdeen coronet came to the dead 
sailor's brother, John Campbell Gordon, seventh Earl 
of his line, who to-day rules Ireland as the King's 
Lieutenant. 



CHAPTER X 

A BELLE OF THE RESTORATION 

As Cardinal Mazarin looked smilingly on at the romps 
of his five lovely nieces with their Royal playmates, 
the boy-King, Louis XIV., and his brother, Philippe 
d'Orleans, even his shrewd, far-seeing eyes could 
scarcely have foreseen the strangely romantic roles 
they were destined to play on the stage of the world. 

It was from no impulse of affection that the " Italian 
adventurer, ' ' then at the zenith of his power as virtual 
ruler of France and avowed lover of Anne of Austria, 
mother of his youthful Sovereign, offered a home to 
the five daughters and the son of his sister, Hieronima 
Mancini. His nieces were, by common consent, the 
loveliest children in Europe; and his design was to 
secure by their beauty, supplemented by his gold, such 
splendid alliances as would make his position as the 
most powerful minister in Europe impregnable. 

He had not calculated, however, on the price he 
would have to pay for realising this ambition. From 
the day when his beautiful nieces woke the slumbers 
of the Palais Mazarin with their romps and shrieks of 
laughter he knew no peace. Wild and untrammelled 

94 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

as young colts, they defied his authority and shocked 
him by their escapades. They scoffed at his religion; 
and while the sisters refused point blank even to hear 
the Mass, in spite of his pleading, " If you won't hear 
it for God's sake, at least hear it for the world's," his 
nephew horrified him, one Good Friday, by celebrat- 
ing Mass over a pig, an outrage which cost him a large 
slice of his uncle's fortune. 

Thus the little madcaps grew up in the splendid 
environment of the Palais Mazarin to a ravishingly 
beautiful young womanhood, the toast of every gallant 
in Europe, and coveted prizes to a small army of Royal 
Princes and nobles. If they had for some years 
proved a terrible thorn in the Cardinal's bed of roses, 
he had at least no difficulty in finding high-placed 
husbands for them, such as his ambition desired. 

Laure, the eldest of the quintette, and the only one 
against whom scandal never pointed a finger, was 
wedded to a grandson of Henri IV. Marie Anne, the 
youngest, blossomed into the Duchesse de Bouillon. 
Olympe might have been Queen of France if Anne of 
Austria had not so resolutely put her foot down on her 
son's dallying; she soon found solace, however, in the 
arms of the Comte de Soissons, a cadet of the Royal 
House of Savoy; only, in later years, to lead a 
scandalous and vagrant life in almost every country in 
Europe. And Marie, in her turn, was compelled to 

95 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

turn her back on the love-sick Louis and the throne of 
France, to find a husband in the Constable Colonna, as 
a preliminary to a life of strange adventure and equal 
scandal. 

Of all his lovely nieces, Hortense was the only one 
who really captured the heart of the Cardinal ; for, not 
only was she the most beautiful of the Mancini sisters, 
but she had a fascination and power of heart-conquest 
which none of them could boast. So effectually did 
she enslave her uncle that her lightest word was law 
to him. e< I can twist him round my little finger, 
comme fa," she used laughingly to boast. As for 
lovers, she drew them as irresistibly (and as dis- 
astrously) as flame attracts moths. Our own Charles 
II., then an exile, burned his wings badly at the flame 
of Hortense's beauty. Twice he offered her his hand, 
and a share of the splendid future which he knew 
awaited him; and twice the Cardinal sent him packing. 
Other high-placed lovers, the Prince (afterwards 
King) of Portugal, the Duke of Savoy, the great 
Turenne, and many another, met with similar rebuffs 
from the haughty beauty or her scheming uncle. 

After declining such splendid alliances as these, 
Europe learned with amazement that the prize of her 
beauty and her colossal fortune had fallen to Armand 
de la Porte de la Meilleraye, son of the brilliant 
Marshal of that name a man of high family, it is true, 

9 6 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

but scarcely a fit successor to the Royal wooers to 
whom she had turned a cold shoulder. With his bride 
Meilleraye secured a dowry of thirty million francs and 
the title of Due de Mazarin. His wedding gift to his 
wife was a cabinet containing ten thousand pistoles of 
gold; a present of which Hortense thought so little that 
she left the cabinet open for all who would to help 
themselves; and when the coins did not go as rapidly 
as she wished she flung them in handfuls out of the 
palace windows, and shrieked with laughter at the 
scrambles of the crowd to secure them. 

Eight days later the Cardinal drew his last breath; 
and Hortense, who was awaiting the end, with her 
sisters, in an adjoining room, joined heartily in their 
exclamation, " God be thanked, the Cardinal's 
gone! " Such was the gratitude that crowned 
Mazarin 's ambitious designs for his nieces! 

Hortense had not been many days a wife before she 
would gladly have given all her gold for her lost free- 
dom, for her husband, the Due, was quick to reveal 
his true character that of a bigoted, madly jealous 
man, with eccentricities bordering on insanity. So 
puritanical was he that one of his first acts was to deface 
every picture in the Palais Mazarin, and to destroy 
with a hammer every statue that offended his sense of 
decency. His jealousy of his wife's dazzling beauty 
took every form of cruelty the ingenuity of a disordered 

97 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

brain could devise. He dismissed her servants; raged 
at all her little vanities; and, lest he should lose sight 
of her, would drag her about with him in all sorts of 
weather, " compelling her to sleep in peasants' huts 
or to lodge with him in lonely castles." He squan- 
dered her fortune, seized her jewels, and generally 
treated her with such barbarity that, after seven years 
of " hell on earth " (as she described her life with 
him) , she was compelled to escape to the protection of 
her brother, the Due de Nevers. 

Then, for some years, ensued a life of such strange 
vicissitudes as has seldom fallen to the lot of woman 
an unhappy period, which can only be lightly out- 
lined in this sketch. Her first flight came to a speedy 
end when she was arrested and imprisoned in the Con- 
vent of Les Filles de St. Marie, an aristocratic home 
for women of evil repute. Here she played such 
pranks, by " filling the nuns' holy water stoup with 
ink, putting wet sheets on their beds, letting dogs loose 
in their dormitory," and by similar practical jokes, 
that the Abbess, in despair, begged to be relieved of 
so troublesome a charge; and she was transferred to 
another convent prison. 

Then once more we find her in flight this time in 
man's clothes, accompanied by a maid, similarly 
attired, and two men-servants. Thus disguised she 
wandered through Switzerland and Italy, encountering 

9 8 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

many a strange adventure by the way, and reduced to 
such straits that she was obliged to pawn the few 
articles of jewellery she had been able to take with 
her. Now she is back again in France entreating 
Louis to protect her from her husband an appeal 
which resulted in an arrangement by which she was to 
enjoy an allowance of 24,000 francs a year, so long as 
she remained out of the country a sum of which a 
cynical courtier remarked, " she will eat it at the first 
inn she comes to! " 

Back again in Italy, on her " beggarly allowance," 
we see the Duchesse embarking on a fresh series of 
escapades and adventures; this time with her sister, 
Mme. la Connetable, who, in turn, is running away 
from her husband. The two runaways, both in male 
attire, reach Marseilles in a small boat, after facing 
death in a terrible storm, and after a narrow escape 
from capture by Turkish pirates. With two chevaliers 
for escort they wander through Provence, until the 
approach of the Due de Mazarin's police agents so 
alarms the Duchesse that she abandons her sister and 
flies to the arms of one of her old suitors, the Duke 
of Savoy, under whose protection she remains for three 
years, secure from her husband's pursuit and revelling 
once more in the luxury she loved. 

With the death of her ducal lover and protector it 
became necessary to look for a new asylum; and her 

99 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

eyes turned to England and to the most ardent wooer of 
her girlish days, Charles II., now well established on 
his recovered throne. And one December day in 1675 
the Duchesse, still young and more radiantly beautiful 
than ever, made her appearance at the Court of White- 
hall, to be received with open arms by the amorous 
King whose offer of a crown she had spurned in his 
days of exile. Of her beauty at this time Forneron 
painted a glowing picture: " The glory and in- 
describable sweetness of her eyes, which ' looked as if 
they had basked in love's sunshine '; the exquisite 
curves of her lips; the luxuriant beauty of the jet-black 
hair which rose in waves to crown her daintily-poised 
head; the purity and freshness of her complexion; the 
grace of a figure, every motion of which was a poem." 
To her physical charms, invested as they were with 
the halo of his early romance, the Merry Monarch 
succumbed at once, the most willing of victims. He 
installed the vagrant Beauty in the most sumptuous 
apartments in St. James's Palace, and dowered her 
with a pension of 4,000 a year. By a leap she took 
her place as queen of his harem, dethroning that arch- 
intrigante, the Duchess of Portsmouth, to the delight 
of Protestant England, who to a man detested and 
feared the lovely " French spy "; while Louis, eager 
to ingratiate himself with Charles's new favourite, 
compelled her husband, the Due, to allow her 50,000 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a year, and to return to her the jewels, laces, and other 
precious belongings of which he had robbed her. 

Thus, from her long years of eclipse and persecu- 
tion, Duchesse Hortense emerged into a splendid 
queendom in a strange land. For political power she 
cared not a straw; she was content to drink long and 
deep of the cup of pleasure and licence which Fortune 
now held so seductively to her lips. Her Royal lover 
was her infatuated slave; he showered gold and costly 
presents on her; dazzled her eyes with coronets which 
she declined to accept; and even turned a blind eye 
to her many intrigues with his rivals, notably with the 
dashing and handsome Prince of Monaco, who had the 
audacity to make love to her under his very eyes. She 
drew to her salon all the men of culture and wit in 
England, from the adoring St. Evremond to the poet 
Waller; and played to perfection the dual role of 
patroness of learning and high priestess of pleasure. 

She flung herself with zest into the mania of 
gambling which had taken possession of Charles's 
Court, and eclipsed even the Duchess of Portsmouth 
and my Lady Castlemaine by the prodigal scale of her 
stakes at the basset-table, winning or losing thousands 
of pounds at a sitting with the same insouciant smile. 
Thus the gay, pleasure-pursuing years flitted by, as 
powerless to touch her radiant beauty as to shake the 
throne of her supremacy. Even when her fortieth 

101 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

birthday was in sight this remarkable woman was still 
drawing all the gallants to her feet; among them the 
Baron Banier, a handsome young Swede barely out 
of his 'teens, and her equally youthful nephew, the 
Chevalier de Soissons, son of her sister Olympe. So 
fierce was the jealousy between these boys that, for her 
beaux yeux, they fought a duel in which the Baron was 
run through the heart. 

" I could not have believed it possible," says 
Madame de Sevigne, " that the eyes of a grandmother 
could have wrought such havoc." Mme. de Mazarin 
was so shocked by this tragedy that " she closed her 
house, hung her salon in black, and saw nobody but 
the ever faithful St. Evremond." But the unnatural 
passion of a nephew and the slaying of a lover young 
enough to be her son were, after all, mere incidents in 
the career of such a profligate. She quickly emerged 
from her crape-hung boudoir to plunge again into the 
vortex of dissipation. To gambling she now added an 
invincible appetite for whiskey, and spent the last years 
of her King-lover's life in an unbroken orgy of dissipa- 
tion. 

With Charles's death her day of queendom naturally 
came to an end. She shed a few tears over her fallen 
greatness, but speedily wiped them away to resume her 
life of sensual indulgence under two more Kings, from 
each of whom she drew a substantial pension. She 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

varied her amours by the feverish joys of the card-table 
and the patronage of the racecourse; and it was only 
when she saw death looming near that she at last retired 
from the scenes of her splendour and her shame to 
spend a few months in mock penitence and preparation 
for the end in Chelsea. Here, one summer day in 
1699, sne closed her eyes on the world in which, for 
fifty-two years, she had played so many romantic parts. 
But even with her death the chapter of her adven- 
tures was not closed. She had not drawn her last 
breath many hours before her body was seized by a 
horde of clamorous creditors, and held in pawn until 
her husband had paid the last farthing of her load of 
debts, and was able to remove it across the Channel. 
" For over a year," says St. Simon, " M. de Mazarin 
carried her body about with him from one estate to 
another. Once he suffered it to rest for a short time 
in the Church of Notre Dame de Liesse, where the 
peasants treated it as that of a saint, and touched it 
with their beads. At last he took it to Paris, and 
buried it beside her famous uncle, the Cardinal, in the 
church of the ' College des Quatre Nations.' " 



103 



CHAPTER XI 

AN INFAMOUS BROTHERHOOD 

You may search England through, and not find a scene 
fairer to look upon than that which spreads its beauties 
by the River Thames between Henley and Marlow 
where the village of Medmenham has its setting in rich 
meadow-lands and green trees, a haunt of peace and 
rural charm, remote from the stress and strife of man. 

We cannot wonder that when the Cistercian monks 
first set eyes on this beauty spot, in the far-away days 
when King John was wearing his crown, they decided 
to raise there an abbey which should rival in grandeur 
their House of Woburn, in Bedfordshire; and before 
John took up his pen to place his reluctant signature 
on the Great Charter, the towering walls of the new 
Abbey of Medmenham were mirrored in the silver of 
the river that flowed, deep and placid, at its feet. 

Here for long centuries succeeding generations of 
monks and abbots recited their Matins, Lauds, and 
Vespers, and the Angelus bell drew the thoughts of 
all within its sound to better things. But this long 
day of peace and worship, in an environment of Nature 
at her loveliest, came to an end when the fiat went forth 

104 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

that monasteries were to be swept away. Indeed, long 
before this, the Medmenham Abbey had fallen on days 
of poverty; and when the end came only two monks 
were left to pace its cloisters and recite its litanies, and, 
we are told, " the house was almost in ruins, its income 
was a little over ,20 a year, and the value of its move- 
able goods was a paltry i 33. 8d." To such straits 
had the proud abbey fallen in the days of Henry VIII. 

Shorn of its grandeur, and left to the merciless hand 
of time, the abbey quickly fell into hopeless decay. 
One after another its lofty walls crashed to the earth, 
until one of its many successive owners restored it to 
some semblance of its old-time beauty by building " a 
tower, cloister, and other parts " in close imitation of 
the original structure. " Within the cloister," we 
learn, from a contemporary writer, " a room has been 
fitted up with the same good taste; and the glare of 
light is judiciously excluded by the pleasing gloom of 
ancient stained glass, chiefly coronets, roses, and port- 
cullises. The figure of the Virgin seated on a throne, 
and holding the Infant Saviour in her arms, carved in 
marble, still remains, and is placed in a niche in the 
tower." 

Such was the restored Cistercian Abbey of Med- 
menham in the days of George III., when Sir Francis 
Dashwood first cast his evil eyes on it; and the idea 
occurred to him to make it once more a scene of wor- 

105 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

ship a " worship " this time so obscene, so unspeak- 
able, that it has covered his name with infamy for ever; 
and the memory of which makes one blush to-day for 
a humanity that could sink to such depths of abomina- 
tion. 

Sir Francis Dashwood, the villain of this drama, was 
a scion of a family that had long been seated on its 
broad lands in Dorsetshire. His grandfather had 
amassed a large fortune as a Turkey merchant in 
London City; his father had blossomed into a country 
squire, with a seat in Parliament, the husband of four 
wives, of whom two were daughters of Earls. A 
Baronetcy was the fitting reward of his political 
labours; and one of his four wives, Lady Mary Fane, 
brought a Barony, that of Le Despencer, into the 
Dashwood family as part of her dower. 

In 1708 Lady Mary gave a son to her husband the 
Francis of our story, who grew up to clever manhood, 
went in his turn to Westminster, and through succes- 
sive offices graduated as Chancellor of the Exchequer. 
There can be no question of Francis Dashwood's 
abilities. He was statesman and orator, scholar and 
courtier a man whose gifts were commensurate with 
any ambition, however great; and to his many dignities 
he added that of Baron Le Despencer, to which he 
succeeded on his mother's death. 

But to this dazzling shield there was another and 

106 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

very different side. As a youth there were few vices 
which Francis Dashwood had not explored; as a man 
he was a pastmaster in all the arts of profligacy. None 
gambled more recklessly than he at the card-table, or 
with such a splendid indifference alike to gain or losses; 
he was the acknowledged King of the Macaronis of 
his day, and with his beribboned and beflowered hat, 
his flowing ringlets, his spying-glass and his nosegay, 
was the biggest swaggerer who ever entered the doors 
of Almack's or Brooks's Club. He knew every haunt 
of vice in London, and was prouder of his amours and 
his three-bottle capacity than of his political fame. 

Such was Francis Dashwood, the most notorious 
roue and blackguard of his day 

Untainted with one deed of real worth, 
Lothario holding honour at no price, 
Folly to folly added, vice to vice 

when his name became associated with the Thames- 
side abbey, to his greatest shame. 

To Dashwood's depraved taste this peaceful spot, 
so far removed from the prying eyes of men, suggested 
itself at once as an ideal resort for the indulgence of 
his debased conceptions of pleasure. He had long 
exhausted all the vicious possibilities of London. 
Here, with fresh appetite, he could take a new lease 
of vice with little fear that his excesses would come 



107 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

to the ears of the public, whom he at once despised and 
courted. 

Nor was there any lack of kindred spirits in that age 
of licence. He need not, indeed, go outside the circle 
of his intimate friends to find all the colleagues he 
required for his new enterprise. 

There was George Selwyn, for instance just the 
man for his purpose, who, in the gratification of his 
tastes feared neither God nor his fellow-man. He had 
proved this as a youth when he was " kicked " with 
ignominy out of his Oxford college a story which 
Horace Walpole tells thus: 

" It appears that Selwyn had obtained possession 
of a silver chalice used for the Communion Service, 
and that while at a tavern, surrounded by a jovial party 
of friends, he once filled it with wine and handed it 
round, exclaiming with mock gravity, ' Drink this in 
remembrance of me.' It was for this infamous out- 
rage on elementary decency that Selwyn had been sent 
down from Oxford in disgrace, to be treated in London 
as a hero and martyr by men as shameless as himself." 

Then there was my Lord Sandwich, a brother states- 
man of Dashwood, a man who was described as 

Too infamous to have a friend, 
Too bad for bad men to commend. 

Potter, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was 
the third of this Comus crew, a man who had nothing 

108 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

to learn, even from Dashwood, of the arts of vice. 
Other members were Wilkes, M.P., and one of the 
cleverest scoundrels in London; the poet Churchill, 
Whitehead, and Lloyd, and others of the same kidney 
to the number of a dozen. 

These were the men (if one can call them " men ") 
who leagued themselves with Dashwood in a new 
brotherhood to revive the splendour of Medmenham 
by worshipping the Devil! " Franciscan " monks 
they dubbed themselves, in honour of Francis, their 
founder and high priest; and to the restored cloister of 
Medmenham Abbey they made their pilgrimages to 
conduct their shameless rites under the eyes of the 
throned Virgin. 

Precisely what these rites were we do not know. It 
was not long, however, before it began to be whispered 
in the taverns and coffee-houses of London that Med- 
menham was the scene of orgies more shameless than 
even those over which the " Regent Roue," the Due 
d'Orleans, presided at his Pare aux Cerfs. There 
were curious eyes in Medmenham village; and strange 
tales began to circulate of the scenes they had 
witnessed through the lighted windows of the cloister- 
room on dark nights scenes (some of them) too 
horrible to raise even a corner of the curtain on. These 
orgies were rarely witnessed except on two nights of 
the week, when the " noble order of Franciscans " 

109 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

deserted town on Saturday to pass the week-end as 
" cloistered monks " by the riverside. Much un- 
savoury light is thrown on these orgies in a contem- 
porary book, " Chrysal, or the Adventures of a 
Guinea "; and Wilkes, whose tongue was as indiscreet 
and unrestrained as his pen, has added the testimony 
of one who shared them. 

" Rites," he told Lord Temple, " were celebrated 
there of a nature subversive of all decency, and calcu- 
lated, by an imitation of the ceremonies and mysteries 
of the Roman Catholic Church, to render not only that 
Church, but religion itself, an object of contumely. 
To such an extent, I will own, that they cannot be 
reflected on without astonishment. Sir Francis Dash- 
wood himself used to officiate as high priest habited in 
the dress of a Franciscan monk of the olden days, and 
engaged in pouring a libation from a Communion cup 
to the mysterious object of the homage of himself and 
his associates.'* 

The Messe Noire, or Black Mass, appears to have 
played an important part in these celebrations; and in 
this connection the following story is told by the author 
of " Tarnished Coronets ": " During the celebra- 
tion of the Messe Noire, Sandwich had to speak an 
invocation to the Devil. At the psychic moment, we 
are told by the author of ' Chrysal,' Wilkes let loose 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a black baboon adorned with the traditional insignia 
of horns and hoofs. 

" The animal vaulted on to the table, and then, 
gibbering with fright, took refuge on Sandwich's 
shoulders. That worthy monk, who, of course, had 
a superstitious belief in the powers he was flouting, 
rolled on the ground in a paroxysm of craven fear, 
imagining that, like a second Faustus, he would be 
carried off to the infernal regions. With frenzy he 
implored the ' gracious devil ' to return whence he had 
come, until a roar of laughter from a fellow reveller 
discovered the intruder to be only a baboon." 

Sandwich never forgave the practical joker. And 
when Wilkes was on his trial for seditious libel his 
opportunity for revenge came. Some years earlier, 
for the delectation of the Franciscans, a scandalous 
poem, entitled an " Essay on Woman," had been 
written in parody of Pope's famous " Essay on Man," 
and this poem Sandwich insisted on reading to a 
scandalised House of Lords, declaring that Wilkes was 
both author and publisher of it. The Peers declared 
that the parody was " obscene, libellous, and a breach 
of privilege "; and a few days later Wilkes was 
indicted for blasphemy. Such was the shameless 
betrayal of one Medmenham monk by another. 

It is as inconceivable in our time that statesmen 
should find their pleasure in ways so disgraceful, as 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

that public opinion should tolerate for a day the orgies 
of the Franciscan monks. But strange as it seems, 
not one of the infamous crew, from Dash wood to " Old 
Q." (the infamous Duke of Queensberry) and Fox, 
Lord Holland, who were later members of the 
fraternity, seems to have suffered much in reputation 
or at all in position by conduct which should make a 
cannibal blush for them. 

Dashwood survived to see his seventy-third birth- 
day, and to wear his coronet as Lord "Le Despencer" 
for nearly twenty years before his shameless eyes were 
closed in death. His later years, when the fires of 
passion had burnt themselves out, seem to have been 
spent in retirement let us hope, also in penitence. 
His fame and shame alike appear to have been for- 
gotten, for not a contemporary line survives to 
chronicle his death. 

Abbot and monks have long been dust. Of Dash- 
wood, as of others of the brotherhood, a tainted 
memory alone remains. But the abbey which they so 
foully desecrated sleeps sweetly still in its ruins; and 
all the infamies of the blasphemers have been power- 
less to leave the least stain on the fairness of its fame. 



112 




FRANCES JENNINGS 
DUCHESS OF TYRCONNEL 



CHAPTER XII 

THE DUCHESS IN THE WHITE MASK 

AMONG the many keepers of stalls in the New 
Exchange in the Strand, a favourite haunt of fashion- 
able shoppers when William III. was King, were two 
women, one in the pride of youth, the other in the 
decline of her days, who for different reasons attracted 
much curiosity. The former, who dispensed her 
wares under the sign of the Three Spanish Gipsies, 
the grand-daughter of a farrier in the Savoy, was a girl 
of rare beauty and charm of manner, who was destined, 
although she little dreamt it in those days, to die 
Duchess of Albemarle. The latter actually was a 
Duchess, and but a few years earlier had held her head 
proudly among the highest and fairest as the most 
lovely of Ireland's Vicereines. 

" Above-stairs," says Horace Walpole, " in the 
character of a milliner, sat the reduced Duchess of 
Tyrconnel, wife of Richard Talbot, Lord Deputy of 
Ireland under James II. She had delicacy enough 
not to wish to be detected; she sat in a white mask 
and a white dress, and was known by the name of the 
' White Milliner.' Probably none of the fine ladies 

"3 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

who purchased trifles at her stall had any suspicion 
that the mysterious saleswoman had been in other days 
the most courted beauty in England vainly wooed by 
two Kings and Deputy Queen of Ireland." 

Little more than fifty years earlier, the Duchess- 
milliner had opened her eyes on the world in which 
she was to play such a romantic and tragic role at 
Sandridge, near St. Albans. She was the daughter 
of a plain, jovial, fox-hunting country squire, Richard 
Jennings, the head of a family which had been seated 
for generations on its broad Hertfordshire acres, and 
had been content to lead the life of country gentlefolk, 
taking little interest in the doings of the world that 
wagged outside its manor boundaries. 

Richard's grandfather had, it is true, been dubbed 
Knight by the first Charles, had been Sheriff of his 
county, and had ridden to the Parliament House at 
Westminster for a few years as a law-maker. But, 
apart from Sir John, no Jennings had troubled his head 
with other concerns than the management of his estates 
and his family; and Squire Richard would have 
laughed aloud if he had been told that the two baby- 
girls in his nursery were one day to wear the coronets 
of Duchesses, one as her Grace of Marlborough, the 
other as Duchess of Tyrconnel. And yet such were 
the surprises Fortune had in waiting for the Jennings 
babies. 



114 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Both girls grew up " in beauty, side by side "; and 
almost before they had emerged from short frocks their 
loveliness was the talk of the countryside. Each in 
her different way was an exquisite flower of girlhood; 
but, of the two, Frances was by common consent the 
more lovely; and before she had laid down her school- 
books she was the toast of every young squire in the 
county, and counted her lovers by the score. 

Her fame even travelled as far as the Royal Court 
in London; and one day the household at Sandridge 
was thrown into a high state of excitement by 
the appearance of a gaily-attired functionary, com- 
manded by the Duchess of York, whose ambition it 
was to surround herself with the prettiest girls in Eng- 
land, to invite Frances Jennings to become one of her 
Maids of Honour. The bait was a dazzling one. 
With much misgiving, Squire Jennings gave his sanc- 
tion, and Frances was translated to the gilded circle 
that fluttered round one of the most brilliant thrones 
in Europe. 

To the squire's daughter, reared in the innocence 
and simplicity of the country, the change was a 
dazzling revolution in her life. To find herself thus 
suddenly moving among the fairest and highest in the 
land, and received among them with the instantaneous 
and universal homage her great beauty commanded, 
was calculated to turn the head of any rustic maiden. 

"5 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

But Frances' pretty head was not easily turned. She 
accepted the homage as her due, and moved among 
her new splendours as if she had been cradled in a 
palace. 

She coquetted with the Court gallants, and drove 
them to distraction by her charms and her caprices. 
The Duke of York himself lost his heart at sight of her, 
and turned on her the battery of his sighs and smiles, 
his ogling, and flattering speeches. When she met 
his advances with alternate coolness and coquetry, her 
indifference only added fuel to the flame of his passion. 
He bombarded her with notes, " containing the 
tenderest expressions and most magnificent promises," 
slipping them into her pocket or her muff, as oppor- 
tunity served; but the disdainful beauty dropped the 
billets-doux on the floor for anyone to read who chose 
to pick them up, until at last the Royal lover was com- 
pelled to abandon the pursuit in despair. 

Much more dangerous were the advances of James's 
brother, the " Merrie Monarch," a man versed in all 
the arts of gallantry and conquest, and, moreover, one 
of the most fascinating men in England. Charles, 
undeterred by his brother's ignominious defeat, laid 
siege to the " lovely Jennings' " heart; and it might 
(who can say?) have gone ill for the fair citadel had 
not his imperious and beautiful mistress put her foot 

116 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

down firmly, and bidden the King to choose between 
her and the Maid of Honour. 

Among Frances' army of high-placed wooers was 
Henry, Marquis de Berny, the future head of one of 
the proudest families of France, who was her abject 
slave, and vowed that he would kill himself if she did 
not smile on his suit. He was saved from this grim 
alternative by his summary recall home by his father; 
but to his last day he never got over his boyish infatua- 
tion. Henry Jermyn, the wealthiest and handsomest 
beau in England, offered his hand, gilded with 
^20,000 a year, to the bewitching Maid of Honour; 
and when she refused it, he rode away to seek death 
in New Guinea. 

To one and all of her legion of lovers Frances turned 
her pretty shoulder. She revelled in her freedom and 
the sovereignty of her beauty; she would be no man's 
wife yet awhile and certainly no man's mistress, 
though he were of the Blood Royal. Of all the maids 
at Court she was the maddest and merriest, as she was 
the fairest. She was always ready for any escapade, 
however foolish and risky; and always was the ring- 
leader in it. The chronicles of the time are full of her 
pranks. 

" What mad freaks the Maids of Honour at Court 
have! " writes Pepys in his Diary. " Mrs. Jennings, 
one of the Duchess's maids, the other day dressed her- 
117 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

self as an orange-wench, and went up and down and 
cried ' Oranges '; till, falling down, or by some acci- 
dent, her fine shoes were discerned and she put to a 
great deal of shame; that such as these tricks, being 
ordinary, and worse among them, there be few will 
venture on them as wives; my Lady Castlemaine will, 
in merriment say that her daughter, now above a year 
old or two, will be the first maid in the Court that will 
be married." 

But the genial diarist is too sweeping in his judg- 
ment. Frances Jennings was a madcap, it is true; 
but no breath of suspicion ever tarnished her fair fame. 
Her virtue was as impregnable as her beauty was un- 
rivalled, although in her love of adventure she 
certainly ran grave risks. On one occasion she and 
another impish Maid of Honour, each suitably attired 
and carrying a basket of oranges, took a hackney coach 
and drove off in search of fun. As the coach rattled 
past the Duke's Theatre, where the Queen and the 
Duchess of York were among the audience, the mad- 
caps pulled it up, and, basket on arm, entered the 
theatre intending to call their wares under the very 
noses of their august mistresses. 

As ill-luck would have it, however, no sooner had 
they set foot in the lobby than Killigrew, a notorious 
rake, accosted them, and, putting his arm round 
Frances' waist, tried to snatch a kiss. With a scream 

118 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

she wrenched herself free, gave the roue a sound box 
on the ear, and, with her companion, rushed back to 
the coach, bidding the driver take them to the house 
of a famous necromancer to have their fortunes told. 
Of the further adventures that befell them there is no 
room to tell, but before they found themselves safely 
at Court again they had had experiences to satisfy them 
for many a week to come. 

But among such a shower of Cupid's darts as assailed 
her even Frances Jennings could scarcely hope to go 
untouched; and the first sign of danger came at her 
meeting with Dick Talbot, a dashing, adventurous 
Irishman, with the finest physique and handsomest face 
in England. 

Talbot was a man whom any maid, however impreg- 
nable she might think herself, might well have found 
irresistible. Apart from his physical perfections, he 
had won a European reputation by his adventures and 
deeds of daring; he was the ideal hero of romance, and 
a born courtier and lover to boot. Before a wooer so 
ardent and so invested with romance Frances 
Jennings' heart succumbed; and, with the approval 
and smiles of her Royal mistress, she became affianced 
to him. But before she had been a promised bride 
many months her proud spirit rebelled against the 
chains of a lover who proved too autocratic to please 
her, and in a moment of mutiny she tore them off. 

119 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

As so often happens to such wayward and wilful 
maidens, her heart was before long caught on the re- 
bound by a pertinacious wooer for whom she did not 
profess any affection George Hamilton, a soldierly, 
stalwart scion of the Abercorn family, who, through 
all her caprices and vagaries, had worshipped patiently 
at her shrine since she first left her Hertfordshire 
home. She had refused more than one Duchess's 
coronet, and had at last bartered her peerless beauty 
to become the wife of a plain soldier of fortune. 

She was but seventeen when, as a bride, she turned 
her back on the splendours of Courts to fare forth with 
her soldier-husband to France, where Louis XIV. had 
need of his sword. Louis made a Count of the Captain 
of his Gens d'Armes Anglais, who, after a few years 
of fighting, fell gallantly in battle near Zebernstieg in 
1676, leaving his young and beautiful wife, with three 
young daughters, penniless, save for a small pension 
from France. 

But Frances Jennings (or the Countess Hamilton, 
as she had now become) was no woman to spend her 
days in weeping, or to watch her beauty fade in the 
shadow of sorrow and obscurity. She was still young, 
and her loveliness had but reached the fulness of its 
flower. It was not long before she had laid aside her 
mourning, and was captivating the gay world of Paris 
under the aegis of the English Ambassador's lady. 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

In the French capital this English rose created as 
great a sensation as in London. To quote one of the 
many admirers of the fascinating widow, " Nature had 
dowered her with inexpressible charms to which the 
Graces have put the finishing touches; she has the 
figure of Aurora, or of the Goddess of Spring." 

It was in Paris, in these days of reincarnation, as she 
called them, that her former lover, handsome Dick 
Talbot, crossed her path again. Like herself, Talbot 
had made a pilgrimage to the altar, and was again free 
to woo and wed; and this time there was no rift within 
the lute. Her heart had always been his, and when 
he claimed it the surrender was immediate and final. 
As the wife of Colonel Talbot she entered on the 
happiest period of her chequered life. 

When her husband, who was a prime favourite with 
James II., was sent to Ireland, with an Earldom to 
gild him, to take charge of the troops there, his 
Countess went with him. A few years later " my 
lord " was created, by his indulgent Sovereign, Duke 
of Tyrconnel, and appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. 

Thus, by devious and obscure paths, Frances 
Jennings had at last reached the goal of her ambition; 
she was a Duchess. Nay, more, she was, as the 
Viceroy's lady, a Queen, with a Court of her own. 
These were splendid days for the squire's daughter 
days in which she drank deep of the cup of pleasure 

121 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and of power; and she filled her exalted position with 
a dignity, tact, and graciousness as conspicuous as her 
beauty. She won all hearts, and commanded all 
homage at a time when the Stuart fortunes were beset 
with dangers and difficulties. Even when the flood 
of disaster overwhelmed her Sovereign, and when he 
rode, desperate and ruined, from the fatal field of the 
Boyne, she was almost the only one of his adherents 
who kept a cool and exalted head. She received the 
dishevelled Royal fugitive at Dublin Castle with all 
the splendour and honours of a Queen receiving an 
Emperor. She knew that her sun had set; but at 
least it should set in flame and glory. 

A little later, she was an exile in France with her 
King. Her splendours had fallen from her; but her 
proud heart was unsubdued. To husband and King 
alike she was a tower of strength. But evil fate 
dogged her still and to the last. Her husband re- 
turned to Ireland, in 1691, to challenge the Orange 
King's supremacy once more. Never had he been 
more buoyant and more brilliant than when, one 
August day, he dined with D'Usson and a few kindred 
souls. " He drank, he jested; he was again the Dick 
Talbot who had dined and revelled with Grammont." 
As he rose, with laughter on his lips, from the table he 
was struck with apoplexy. Three days later he died; 

122 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and his body was laid to rest, unmarked by stone or 
epitaph, under the pavement of Limerick Cathedral. 

The rest of Frances Jennings' remarkable life-story 
can be told in a few words. For some years poverty 
of a grim type was her daily companion. Her beauty 
faded until no trace of it was left. Her three 
daughters by Hamilton, for each of whom she had 
found a Viscount for husband, were estranged from 
her. For a time, as we have seen, she was thankful 
to keep body and soul together by selling her wares in 
the New Exchange, hiding her pride and identity in a 
white mask. At last her brother-in-law, the Duke of 
Marlborough, came tardily to her rescue; and through 
his influence a small part of her husband's Irish pro- 
perty was restored to her. Thus rescued from priva- 
tion, she spent the last thirty years of her life in Dublin, 
living unregarded where she had once reigned as 
Queen. 

And her death was as pitiful as the clouded close of 
her life. One cold winter night in 1731 she fell out 
of bed on to the floor, " and being too feeble to rise 
or call out, she was found in the morning so perished 
with cold that she died in a few hours." Thus died 
in loneliness and tragedy one of the most brilliant 
women who have ever dazzled men's eyes by their 
beauty, or have climbed to dizzy heights on the ladder 
of ambition. 

"3 



CHAPTER XIII 

A BEAUTIFUL SHREW 

THE Kit Cat Club, that famous club of Whig patriots 
which held its convivial meetings over Christopher 
Kat's pastrycook shop, within a biscuit throw of 
Temple Bar, some two centuries ago, had many a 
proud name on its roster of members from the great 
Maryborough and bluff Sir Robert Walpole to Steele 
and Addison, Congreve and Dryden; but none quite 
so remarkable as that of Mary Pierrepoint, famous in 
later years as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the 
eccentric beauty and wit who wrote the most charming 
letters ever penned by human hand. 

It was the invariable law of the Kit Cat Club that 
at each merry meeting a special toast should be given 
in honour of some lady of beauty or fame; and one 
evening in the year 1698 this honour fell to Evelyn 
Pierrepoint, who was in later years to blossom into His 
Grace of Kingston. " My daughter Mary," was Mr. 
Pierrepoint's choice, to the consternation of his fellow- 
members, not one of whom had set eyes on the lady 
who was to be thus highly honoured. 

" You have not seen my daughter, gentlemen," 

124 




LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Mr. Pierrepoint said; " but I will send for her, and 
you shall see for yourselves that, young as she is, she 
is a lady worthy of your homage." Half-an-hour 
later the " toast " of the evening, a child of eight, who 
had been taken from her bed for the purpose, made 
her appearance a charming picture in frills and 
ribbons and, at sight of her dainty loveliness, made 
an immediate conquest. The toast was drunk with 
uproarious enthusiasm; the beautiful little maid was 
elected a member of the Club with acclamation, and 
spent a delightful hour on the knees of great noble- 
men and poets before she was carried back, weary but 
very happy, to her bed. Thus dramatically did Lady 
Mary Wortley Montagu make her curtsey and her first 
conquests on the stage of life, on which for so many 
years she was to be a conspicuous figure. 

Fond as Mary Pierrepoint was of admiration and 
petting, she was fonder still of her books; and her 
happiest hours, even as a child, were spent in her 
father's library, poring over " Ovid " or 
" Xenophon " a curious pastime in which she often 
had for companion young Edward Wortley, brother 
of her great friend Anne Wortley, a studious youth 
who still found time to write glowing sonnets to his 
fellow student's beauty and wit. In fact, he soon 
found it so agreeable to read Latin and Greek with 
pretty Mary Pierrepoint that he completely lost his 

125 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

heart to her, and began to avow his passion in ardent 
prose. 

But Lady Mary (as she now was), who by this time 
had blossomed into a beautiful and very fascinating 
young woman of twenty-one, was little disposed to 
allow Cupid to interfere with " Xenophon." She 
frankly tells her wooer, " I can esteem, I can be a 
friend, but I don't know whether I can love. Expect 
what is complaisant and easy, but never what is fond 
in me." Such cold response as this chilled the ardour 
of Edward Wortley. Reproaches were followed by 
hot words; and, in high dudgeon, the young man at 
last went off, vowing he would never see her again. 

Then it was, as so often happens, that the deserted 
girl made a discovery. She knew then that she really 
loved the man she had spurned; and she wrote to him, 
" While I foolishly fancied you loved me, there is no 
condition in life I could not have been happy in with 
you so very much I liked you I may say, loved; 
since it is the last thing I'll ever say to you. 
I'll never see you more. I shall avoid all public 
places; and this is the last letter I shall send. If you 
write, do not be displeased if I send it back unopened." 

To Edward Wortley this sudden thawing of the ice- 
berg was a revelation as startling as it was welcome. 
An hour after receiving it, he was on his knees before 
the girl he loved, and was holding the hand which 

126 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

carried a heart with it. But Edward Wortley's 
difficulties were by no means at an end. The Marquis 
of Dorchester (as Mr. Pierrepoint had become) not 
only point-blank refused to accept him as son-in-law, 
but vowed that his daughter should forthwith be 
married to a man of his own choosing. If she refused, 
he would " disown her for ever." 

In such a terrible predicament, what could a poor 
maiden do ? She dried her tears, and consented to go 
to the altar with the man she hated. The wedding- 
day was fixed; the bride's trousseau, on which ,400 
had been spent, was ready to wear and then, at the 
eleventh hour, when even the wedding-guests had 
arrived, the bride fled to the arms of Edward Wortley. 

The day before she thus vanished, she had written 
to him ' ' Reflect now for the last time in what manner 
you must take me. I shall come to you only with a 
nightgown and petticoat; and that is all you will get 
with me. I again beg you to hire a coach to be at 
the door early Monday morning to carry us part of our 
way wherever you resolve our journey shall be. 

I tremble for what we are doing. Are you sure 
you will love me for ever? Shall we never repent? " 

Ominous words these; for seldom has even a run- 
away match proved more disastrous. Edward Wort- 
ley, the student-lover, was quick to show his true 
character that of "an insufferable prig and the 

127 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

meanest of misers "; and before the honeymoon had 
waned he began to treat his wife with the neglect and 
cruelty which ultimately drove her from him. The 
unhappy girl, however, soon found solace and distrac- 
tion in a whirl of gaiety. If her husband did not 
appreciate her, there were hundreds of gallants to pay 
homage to her beauty and her wit; the world of fashion 
was eager to hail her as one of its queens. 

When her miserly husband, who had now tacked 
" Montagu " on to his " Wortley " cognomen, was 
made Lord of the Treasury, Lady Mary transferred 
her charms and gifts to the Royal Court, where she 
soon became a prime favourite. The King and the 
Prince of Wales both paid her marked attention; in 
fact, His Majesty was always at his best and merriest 
when Wortley Montagu's wife was by his side. And 
in this connection an amusing story is told. 

One day, when she was anxious to keep an appoint- 
ment, she slipped away unobserved from the King's 
side, and was tripping down the staircase when she 
met Secretary Craggs, who was on his way to pay his 
respects to His Majesty. " Ha, you little truant! 
You are running away? " was the Secretary's greet- 
ing; and " snatching her up in his arms, as a nurse 
carries a child, he ran full speed with her upstairs, 
deposited her within the ante-chamber, kissed both her 
hands respectfully, and vanished." There was no 

128 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

help for it now ! Lady Mary, covered with confusion, 
was ushered by a page once more into the presence 
of the King, to whom she told the story of her abduc- 
tion, with tears in her eyes. 

A moment later in walked Mr. Secretary with pro- 
found obeisances, whereupon the King angrily 
demanded, " Is it the custom of this country to carry 
about fair ladies like a sack of flour? " For a second 
Craggs was dumbfounded, never dreaming that Lady 
Mary had played the traitress; and then, with a low 
bow, said, " There is nothing I would not do for your 
Majesty's satisfaction." The King laughed, we are 
told; but when Craggs passed Lady Mary, he whis- 
pered fiercely in her ear, " You little tell-tale. 

I thought you had more sense. I'll pay you out for 
this some day! " 

When, in 1716, Wortley Montagu was sent to Con- 
stantinople on a diplomatic mission his wife accom- 
panied him, to spend two years in the gorgeous East, 
where none was more gorgeous than herself. She was 
more Oriental than the Orientals in her rose-coloured 
damask silk trousers, brocaded with silver flowers, her 
shoes of gold-embroidered white kid, smock of white 
silk gauze edged with embroidery, richly-laced scarlet 
waistcoat and blue braided jacket. 

Of this sojourn in the East Lady Mary gives many 
a sprightly account in her inimitable letters, not the 

129 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

least lively of which is the following: " One of the 
highest entertainments in Turkey is having you to their 
baths; and when I was introduced to one, the lady of 
the house came to undress me, which is another high 
compliment they pay to strangers. After she had 
slipped off my gown and saw my stays, she was much 
struck at the sight of them, and cried out to the other 
ladies in the bath, ' Come hither and see how cruelly 
the poor English ladies are used by their husbands; 
you need boast indeed of the superior liberties allowed 
you when they lock you up thus in a box! ' 

It was during this stay in Constantinople that Lady 
Mary " first had the thought of a septennial bill for 
the benefit of married persons "; and that she began 
to advocate the virtues of inoculation for small-pox, 
which was commonly practised by the Turks. ' They 
make parties," she says, " for this purpose; and when 
they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) 
the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter 
of the best sort of small pox, and asks what vein you 
please to have opened. She immediately rips open 
that you offer to her, with a large needle, and puts 
into the vein as much venom as can lie upon 
the head of the needle; and afterwards binds 
up the little wound with a hollow piece of 
stick." But the English doctors jeered at the new- 
fangled medical heresy; and England was thus left to 

'3 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the ravages of small-pox eighty years longer until 
Jenner took up the cudgels for vaccination and at last 
conquered a sceptical world. 

Back in England again, it was not long before Lady 
Mary's scathing pen and contemptuous indifference 
made a bitter enemy of Pope, whose infatuation for 
her led to an offer of marriage. And never was lover 
so humiliated as the " little hunchback/' when, in 
passionate words, he laid his heart at his lady's feet. 
In spite of her utmost endeavours to be angry and look 
grave, Lady Mary burst into an immoderate fit 
of laughter, from which moment, we are told, " he 
became her implacable enemy." How bitter and re- 
morseless this enmity was we all know who have read 
the cruel lines in which the poet satirised Lady Mary 
as Sappho. 

But Lady Mary's " pen of vinegar " and her too 
clever and biting tongue constantly estranged friends 
and made enemies; and to her last day she seemed 
unable to keep either tongue or pen in decent restraint. 
One cannot resist a laugh at these exhibitions of her 
dangerous sense of humour and her sarcasm; as when 
she gravely assured foolish Lady Rich that the Master 
of the Rolls is so called " because he superintends all 
the French rolls that are baked in London; and with- 
out him you would have no bread and butter for break- 
fast "; or when she described Lady Orkney as " a 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

mixture of fat and wrinkles, and before, a very con- 
siderable protuberance which precedes her "; and 
Lady Portland at George III.'s coronation, as "an 
Egyptian mummy embroidered over with hiero- 
glyphics." 

Very clever and amusing, no doubt; but such mis- 
directed and spiteful humour makes enemies inevit- 
ably, as Lady Mary found to her cost in the days of 
her friendless old age, when she in turn became the 
butt of gibes and jeers to which she was no longer 
able to retaliate effectively. 

In 1739, after nearly thirty years of miserable 
wedded life, Lady Mary decided to leave her husband; 
and for two-and-twenty years she never set foot in 
England not indeed until death had loosened her 
husband's clutch of his money-bags. The latter years 
of this sordid Croesus (he left 1, 350,000 behind him) 
were spent " in a wretched hovel lean, unpainted, 
and half its nakedness barely shaded with harateen 
stretched till it cracks," drinking his daily half-pint of 
tokay and gloating over his gold. 

Meanwhile, his ill-used wife was wandering aim- 
lessly about the Continent, her beauty now only a 
memory all that was left to her, her clever pen and 
her venomous tongue. Horace Walpole saw her at 
Florence in 1 740, when she was barely fifty, and gives 
this unlovely account of her. " Lady Mary Wortley 

132 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

is here," he writes, " an object of ridicule to the town. 
She wears a foul mob-cap that does not cover her 
greasy black locks, that hang down never combed or 
curled; an old mazarine-blue wrapper that gapes open 
and discovers a canvas petticoat. Her face violently 
swelled partly covered with plaister, partly with 
white paint, which for cheapness she has bought so 
coarse that you would not use it to wash a chimney/' 

Even Lady Mary herself could not have painted a 
more cruel picture of her worst enemy than this of her- 
self by Walpole, who in a few words has handed down 
to posterity a " settlement in full " of the grudges 
he bore her. But, making every allowance for the 
exaggerations of a spiteful enemy, one cannot resist a 
feeling of pity for this woman, shorn of the last vestige 
of beauty, separated from her husband and home, and 
abandoned by her friends, dragging out a wretched 
existence among strangers to whom she was an object 
of ridicule or aversion. Add to these the trouble 
caused by her son, a worthless profligate, and eccentric 
to the verge of madness; and who is there who can envy 
Lady Wortley Montagu her brief reign of splendour 
and conquest? 

When she returned to England, after her husband's 
death, in 1761, her own days were drawing to a tragic 
close. Cancer of the breast, that most cruel and pain- 
ful of diseases, seized her; and after a few months of 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

indescribable suffering borne with fine courage and 
resignation, the brilliant and unhappy daughter of the 
Duke of Kingston drew her last breath one August 
day in 1762. 



CHAPTER XIV 

A NOBLE ECCENTRIC 

THE British Peerage, like every human flock, has not 
only its black sheep, but its eccentrics, whose whimsi- 
calities, often verging on madness, provoke either 
laughter or pity. 

Such a blue-blooded oddity was Jane Elizabeth, 
Lady Ellenborough, sister of the ninth Lord Digby, 
whose singular career, which came to an end but thirty 
years ago, made her for half-a-century the wonder 
and laughing-stock of Europe. Among her many 
eccentricities was a mania for matrimony. Before 
she had been many years wedded to her first lord, and 
while still little more than a girl, she eloped with 
Prince Schwartzenberg, only to leave him in turn, 
within two years, for the arms of a handsome Bavarian, 
Baron Vennigen. 

In quick succession she transferred her volatile 
affection to half-a-dozen other husbands, before she 
lost her heart to a Bedouin sheik, who promptly 
divorced his Moslem wives and married her. The 
remainder of her romantic life she spent roaming the 
desert with her Arab lord and his dusky retinue, a 

J 35 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Queen of Bedouins, or in her barbaric home just out- 
side the gates of Damascus, happier, she declared, in 
her semi-savage life than if she were wearing the 
coronet of an English Duchess. 

Other noble oddities occur readily to the memory 
the second Lord Rokeby, whom it pleased to walk 
hatless in the pouring rain by the side of his carriage 
while his flunkeys rode luxuriously inside; and who 
spent most of his days gambolling like a merman in 
the sea, and dried himself by racing round and round 
his bathing-house, to the alarm of any who chanced 
to stray that way. Elwes, the Millionaire miser who, 
although no Peer, counted noblemen among his ances- 
tors, and himself refused a seat in the House of 
Lords who would cheerfully lose thousands at a 
sitting at the gaming-table ; while he would sit without 
fire and light in order to save coals and candles, or 
would feast off a month-old pancake, carried in his 
pocket, rather than spend sixpence on a meal at a 
cheap restaurant. 

These and many others one recalls such as Lady 
Hester Stanhope, who, like Lady Ellenborough, 
turned her back on civilisation to lead the barbaric 
life of the East; the first Earl of Dudley, a prey to 
weird fancies, whose habit of speaking his thoughts 
aloud was responsible for so many amusing stories; 
and the " mad " Duke of Portland, who spent his 

136 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

days in his subterranean palace at Welbeck, or dodg- 
ing furtively along his corridors and through his park, 
fearful lest human eyes should see him. 

But among all these freaks of noble humanity few 
are quite as interesting as George Hanger, fourth 
Lord Coleraine, in the Peerage of Ireland, who cut 
such a romantic and, at times, grotesque figure in 
the London of a century or more ago. A strange 
medley of humanity was my Lord Coleraine scholar 
and buffoon, intimate friend of the heir to the Throne 
and laughing-stock of the coffee-houses; now moving 
splendidly among the most splendid at the Court at 
Carlton House, now herding with thieves and out-of- 
work highwaymen in the slums of St. Giles; swash- 
buckler, deadly duellist, famous bruiser, distinguished 
soldier, and coal-dealer, who scoffed at rank and 
titles, and vowed he was more in his element riding to 
Tyburn with a doomed highwayman in the execution- 
cart than hobnobbing with Princes. 

His enemies, if he had any, could never point to 
George Hanger as a madman; his stoutest champion 
could scarcely vow that he was quite sane. He was 
an eccentric, a man of strange whims and fancies, a 
soldier of fortune and its willing football. 

Such was the fourth Lord Coleraine, who opened 
his eyes on the world one day in 1751, at his father's 
seat in Gloucestershire. Precisely who he was or how 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he came by his title he used to say he did not know 
and that he cared less. In his autobiography he de- 
clares that he cannot trace his ancestry beyond his 
grandfather, one Sir George; and as for his title, he 
accounts for it thus humourously : 

" My sister, Miss Anne Hanger, was married to 
Hare, Lord Coleraine; but my father was not in the 
most distant degree related to his lordship, or con- 
nected with him except by that marriage. Lord 
Coleraine, however, happening to die at the very nick 
of time without issue or heir to his coronet, my father 
claimed it, with just as much right as the clerk or 
sexton of the parish." 

But this was only " George's fun." His family was 
highly respectable, boasting a few centuries of credit- 
able ancestry; and the title which he inherited was 
quite regularly granted to his father while George was 
wrestling with his Eutropius at Eton, in 1762. 

As a schoolboy the heir-to-be seems to have been a 
hopeless " pickle," the despair of his masters, the idol 
of his schoolfellows. Ringleader in every escapade, 
fighting when he was not playing truant and defying 
authority, the most birched boy in the school, he made 
a promising start in a career which was to be so adven- 
turous and unconventional. 

From Eton he went into the Army; spent a year 
in study and duelling at Gottingen, and two more at 

138 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Hanover and Hesse-Cassel, painting both towns red 
with his dissipations and pranks. Then back to 
London, where for a few years he held his place as 
the gayest man in town, hero of a long succession of 
love adventures, duels, and bruising-matches. 

Sated with such indulgences he resigned his com- 
mission in the Guards, and took his sword out to 
America, where the Revolution was in full flame ; and 
there he performed such prodigies of valour, and 
proved himself so able a tactician, that he won his 
majority, and was appointed inspector of Volunteers. 
In the midst of his martial glory, however, yellow 
fever seized him in its deadly grip ; and, after a long 
life-and-death struggle, he returned to England a 
mere " bag of bones." 

But George Hanger was by no means beaten by 
fate. Before he had been many months in London 
we find him welcomed into the circle of the rollicking 
blades who were boon companions of George, Prince 
of Wales, " First Gentleman in Europe," one of the 
Prince's equerries, on a substantial salary, and his 
chief favourite. Those were mad, merry days for the 
future Baron the cockpit, the prize-ring, coaching, 
philandering with bevies of Perditas, swaggering in 
fine attire, filled his days to overflowing; the nights 
were spent in feasting and drinking, at the gaming- 
tables, and in more questionable haunts of pleasure. 

139 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Many a tale is told of the pranks of Prince George 
and his merry men in which George Hanger was ring- 
leader. It was he who made that ludicrous wager 
with the Prince, when, seated with Fox, Sheridan and 
others of the same jovial kidney, he was being whirled 
to Brighton behind the galloping horses driven by the 
Prince himself. A dispute arose as to the relative 
speed of turkeys and geese, over a course of ten miles. 
His Royal Highness declared that the turkeys would 
win easily; Hanger as enthusiastically backed the 
humbler birds. A match was at once arranged. The 
turkeys quickly established a commanding lead, and 
looked winners all over ; but alas ! as the shades of 
evening began to fall they took to the trees to roost, 
and left the geese to romp in by a margin of miles. 

Such is a sample of those merry, foolish days when 
George Hanger was an idol of the most dissipated 
coterie in England. But even in those days of 
splendour the irrepressible George could not keep his 
eccentricity within bounds. " He might be seen," to 
quote from Mr. C. Redding's " Recollections," " rid- 
ing his grey pony in Pall Mall without a servant; 
then, dismounting at a bookseller's shop, he would 
get a boy to hold his horse, and sit upon the counter 
for an hour, talking to Burdett, Bosville, or Major 
James, who used to haunt that shop, Budd and 
Calkin's. He was a very rough subject, but honest 

140 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

to the back-bone, and plain-speaking". He carried a 
short, thick shillelagh, and now and then took his 
quid. A favourite of the Prince of Wales, he 
administered a well-merited reproof to the Prince and 
the Duke of York, one day at Carlton House, for the 
grossness of their language." 

At other times he would slip away from the gilded 
salons of Carlton House to spend a few hours in the 
slums of the East End, roystering with pickpockets 
and housebreakers, and convulsing them with his 
drolleries, or to join a strolling band of gipsies, and 
for a few happy days mend kettles with them as a 
variant from robbing hen-roosts. 

It was on one such excursion that, he tells us, he 
lost his heart to " the lovely Egypta." " I used," he 
writes, " to listen with raptures to the melodies of her 
voice. I thought her the ' Pamela ' of Norwood, the 
paragon of her race, the Hester of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. But, alas, on my return after a short absence 
one day, I found that she had gone off with a travel- 
ling tinker of a neighbouring tribe, who wandered 
about the country mending pots and kettles." 

Thus unromantically ended the one real romance 
in the life of this soldier of fortune, who lived and 
died unwed. When he was wearied alike of Courts, 
of slums, and gipsy-tents, he would take to his pen 
and write a learned treatise on some military subject 

141 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

which would command the admiration of the greatest 
Army experts. " You would have made a great 
General, George," his friend, the Prince, once said to 

him, " if you weren't so fond of low company/' 

" Your Royal Highness should not blame me," was 
the quick retort, " for a preference which may be my 
misfortune, but is certainly your fault." Whereupon 
Europe's First Gentleman laughed until he grew 
purple in the face, as he exclaimed : " You had me 
there, George. I can never get any change out of 
you, by gad !" 

George Hanger gives a vastly entertaining account 
of this period (and others) of his adventurous life in 
his autobiography, which he humourously prefaced 
with a portrait of himself dangling from a gallows, in 
sly allusion to his name, Hanger. In it he declares, 
with truth, that he had lived with men and women of 
every rank, from the highest to the lowest, from St. 
James's to St. Giles's, from the drawing-room to the 
dust-cart, in palaces and night-cellars. But even the 
glamour of Carlton House and the friendship of a 
future King of England could not long hold his 
adventurous spirit in check. He sought fresh worlds 
to conquer, fresh experiences to stimulate his restless 
appetite. 

For a time he turned coal-merchant, and spent his 
days touting for custom all over London, carrying 

142 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

samples of his wares in every one of his pockets. 
One day the Prince chanced to meet him on one of 
his commercial rounds. " Well, George," he asked, 
as he reined in his horse, " and how are coals to-day ?" 
" Black as ever, please your Royal Highness," was 
the ready retort, as George proceeded to submit his 
specimens to his Royal friend, who sent him away 
happy with an order for twenty tons. 

When the black diamonds steadily refused to be 
transmuted into gold George transferred his activities 
to recruiting for the Army, spending ^500 out of his 
own pocket in establishing agencies for the purpose. 
For six years he toiled at perfecting his machinery; 
then, as ill-luck would have it, his bubble burst. His 
directors in Leadenhall-street quarrelled among 
themselves, the scheme collapsed, and George lost at 
one swoop his ,500, his salary of 600 a year, and 
his long years of labour. 

When at last his title came to him, on the death of 
an older brother, George would have none of it. 
Nothing made him more angry than to be addressed 
as " Lord Coleraine " or " my lord." " Do you wish 
to insult me, sir?" he would fiercely demand. " Plain 
George Hanger is good enough for me; unless you 
address me as ' Baron Coal ' without the ' raine,' for 
that is appropriate enough." 

And so he remained to the end of his days " plain 

M3 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

George Hanger " ; and he was never happier than 
when spending his evenings among his humble cronies 
at the Sol's Arms in the Hampstead-road, presiding 
over the merry meetings in the large armchair which 
was always placed for him before the fire, and 
addressed as " George " or " friend George " by the 
local butcher or baker. 

Thus this noble oddity drifted through the remain- 
ing years of his chequered life, struggling to make 
ends meet, smiling at his discomfiture and poverty, 
his laughter always ringing loud among the gayest, a 
joke ever on the tip of his clever tongue. He had 
sampled life from the highest to the lowest, from 
Court salons to sordid slums, from the soldiers' camp 
to the gipsies' tent ; and had found his greatest happi- 
ness in the humblest environment. His favourite 
boast was that " he cared not a straw whether he was 
a nobleman or a gentleman; but one thing he knew, 
and that was that he was a dead shot." He was a 
loyal friend to all, and no man's enemy but his own. 

A few days before his death he declared that the 
happiest time of his life was the year or so he spent in 
King's Bench prison " those blessed regions of rural 
retirement," as he called his gaol. 

The end of his strange life is thus chronicled in the 
"Gentleman's Magazine" in 1824: "March 3ist. 
Died of a convulsive fit, at his residence, near the 

144 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Regent's Park, aged seventy-three, the Right Hon. 
George Hanger, Lord Coleraine of Coleraine, County 
Londonderry, in the Peerage of Ireland; better known 
by the title of Colonel Hanger, or the familiar appel- 
lation of George Hanger." 



M5 



CHAPTER XV 

THE WOMAN WHO MADE AN EMPEROR 

WHO was Miss Howard, the woman of beauty and 
mystery who played such a romantic part in the life 
drama of Napoleon III.; who, more than all others, 
helped to raise him to his Imperial throne; and who, 
had Fate been kind to her, might have worn a crown 
as Empress? 

To this day none can say with certainty. From the 
cradle to the grave her identity was as shrouded in 
mystery as that of " Pamela," whose modest tomb- 
stone in the cemetery of Montmartre bears no other 
epitaph than this name of six letters. During her 
life it was commonly believed that she had every 
right to the ducal surname she bore that she was, in 
fact, a daughter of a cadet of the noble house of 
Howard. And even if this be but surmise, her 
strangely dramatic life-story, which had many links 
with our nobility, may legitimately be allowed a place 
among these " Romances of the Peerage." 

That the early part of Miss Howard's life was spent 
in comparative obscurity seems probable. It is even 
said that she first met the Prince in whose life she was 

146 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

destined to play such a vital part in a West End 
street on her way home from the saloon-bar over 
which she presided. But if this were so, how are we 
to account for the wealth which she undoubtedly pos- 
sessed, and with which she so lavishly supplied the 
pockets of the " hope of the Bonapartes " in the days 
of his exile and poverty ? 

Such advantage as there was in the acquaintance- 
ship thus unconventionally struck up was certainly 
all on the side of Louis Napoleon. She was young 
and beautiful, " as fair a rose of girlhood as could be 
found in the whole of England." He the " lank- 
haired adventurer," as the Tsar called him was a 
" mean, shuffling figure of a man " stout, sallow- 
faced, heavy-jowled, with a preternaturally grave, in- 
scrutable face, relieved only by a pair of fine grey 
eyes, magnetic and impressive. 

She was undoubtedly rich; he was poor. She had 
legions of high-placed admirers, including such hand- 
some gallants as the Duke of Beaufort, My Lords 
Malmesbury and Chesterfield and Count D'Orsay 
all devout worshippers at the shrine of her beauty. 
He, in spite of his Royal pretensions, was regarded 
contemptuously, or only barely tolerated by English 
Society. 

What was it in this penurious, down-at-heels Prince 

M7 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

that attracted the lovely Miss Howard ? " It was 
pity; nothing else," she declared in later years when 
her loyalty was rewarded with slights. Probably it 
was pity in part; but more largely the romance with 
which she invested this pretender to a throne and a 
woman's wish to share a life which had such splendid, 
if nebulous, possibilities. However this may have 
been, we know that from their first meeting Miss 
Howard dedicated her life and her fortune to her 
shabby admirer with a devotion of which none 
but a highly romantic woman could have been 
capable. 

To her eager and sympathetic ears he confided his 
hopes and his despair. One day his future was full 
of golden promise the crown of Emperor, which his 
uncle had lost, was in his hands; the next brought a 
black mood of despondency which no ray of hope 
penetrated. As his moods alternated, she revelled 
with him in his visions of coming grandeur, or with 
buoyant words dissipated the clouds that brooded 
over him. She fed the flames of his ambition, poured 
healing balm on the wounds left by the slights to which 
he was daily subjected, and when his fortune seemed 
darkest infused new life and hope into him. Her 
purse was ever at his service she paid his debts, and 
in a hundred unostentatious ways ministered to him. 
Well might he exclaim in later and other years, " It 

148 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

is to you alone that I owe my crown. Without 
your sweet help and encouragement I should 
never have emerged from those black years in 
London." 

Can one wonder that such devotion, allied to such 
beauty, made a complete conquest of the Prince's 
heart, or that the friends so romantically brought to- 
gether became ardent, if illicit, lovers ? Not only did 
Miss Howard place her gold and her encouragement 
at the service of her lover, but it was largely her fer- 
tile brain that made his way clear to the throne of 
France. She enlisted the help of powerful friends in 
England and in France. She made many a journey, 
in various disguises, across the Channel, mixing with 
all sorts and conditions of people, feeling the pulse 
of opinion towards her princely protege, and making 
friends for him wherever she went by the joint help 
of tongue and purse, until, as was disclosed later by 
certain papers found in the secret cabinet of the 
Emperor, she had spent no less than ,40,000 on pav- 
ing the way to the throne for him. 

It was she who too confidently inspired that ill- 
fated coup in which Napoleon landed in France with 
half-a-hundred followers an eagle, emblem of his 
coming sovereignty, perched on his shoulder. At the 
first shots that greeted him his soldiers turned tail, 
and his eagle took wing, to be captured a few days 

149 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

later unromantically devouring sausages in a butcher's 
shop; while the princely leader of the invading army 
paid for his rashness by a sentence of six years' im- 
prisonment. 

When, in 1846, Napoleon escaped, and made his 
way again to England, it was Miss Howard, with un- 
shaken loyalty, who received and cared for him, 
supplying him with funds, and inspiring him with new 
hopes and courage. Had it not been for her cheery 
optimism he would, as he confessed later, have finally 
abandoned all hope of a crown. But although neither 
knew it, this darkest hour was near the dawn which 
came, two years later, when Louis Philippe was de- 
throned, and the way at last seemed clear to the man 
who aspired to be his successor. 

When, full of a new hope, he journeyed to Paris, it 
was with Miss Howard as companion, to watch over 
his interests and to take care of him as none other 
could have done. The tide of his fortunes had at 
last turned. With dramatic swiftness the returned 
exile was elected Member of the Assembly and Prince 
President of the Republic. The ultimate goal was 
now at hand; and through the final struggle for the 
throne Miss Howard's devotion shone more re- 
splendent than ever. The President required money 
lots of money to strengthen his position, to 
appease enemies, to win friends; and this Miss 

'5 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Howard supplied with a lavish hand, until, with 
emptied exchequer, she at last saw her idol wearing 
the Imperial crown. 

Seldom in the world's history has a woman's devo- 
tion to a man reached such splendid heights of self- 
sacrifice, and never did loyalty so richly deserve its 
reward. In his days of obscurity and poverty, when 
all his castles were still in the clouds, Napoleon had 
many a time vowed that the woman who was so good 
to him should share his throne in the years to come; 
and Miss Howard would have been untrue to her sex 
if she had closed her eyes to this splendid possibility. 
And, indeed, for a time it seemed that her lover might 
keep his vow. One of his first acts was to confer a 
title on her as Comtesse de Beauregard; to settle a 
pension of ,2,000 a year on her; and to present to 
her a mansion and an estate near Versailles which had 
once belonged to the Bourbons. 

But it soon became clear that he designed the wed- 
ding-ring for another. He hawked his false heart 
around all the Courts of Europe; but no Princess 
could be found to accept it, even though he carried 
with it a crown. Thus spurned, he might have 
claimed every justification for placing the ring on the 
unroyal finger of the woman who had practically given 
him his crown ; and he might indeed have done so had 
he not at this crisis in his life fallen under the spell 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

of the most lovely woman in Europe, the Comtesse de 
Teba, who, through her grandfather, William Kirk- 
patrick, had in her veins some of the best blood of 
Scotland, and through her father, the Comte de 
Montijo, a liberal strain of Spanish blue blood. 

Napoleon, ever defenceless in the presence of 
beauty, was the last man to resist such an appeal as 
the lovely Comtesse made to his passions. The pic- 
ture of Eugenie de Montijo at this time of her peerless 
youth is irresistible in its seductiveness. She had, we 
are told, " features of classic regularity ; a dazzlingly 
fair complexion, heightened by the burnished gold ot 
her hair, and by eyes whose deep blue darkened to 
violet under the shade of their long lashes. Her 
dainty head was exquisitely poised on divinely- 
moulded shoulders; her tall and pliant figure was 
faultless in its grace and symmetry; and her hands 
and feet were small as those of a child." 

Such was Eugenie de Montijo, Comtesse de Teba, 
granddaughter of a Scottish wine-merchant, when her 
beauty dazzled the eyes of Napoleon, fresh to his 
crown, and who, with a glance of her eyes, brought the 
Autocrat of France to her feet. Miss Howard was 
not long left in ignorance that her place had been 
taken by the most dangerous rival in Europe. But 
the woman who had clung so loyally to Napoleon 
through his long years of eclipse was not going to 

152 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

yield her place to another now that his sun had 
reached its zenith. 

Though youth had fled, and with it much of the 
beauty that held her lover captive, she fought for her 
place in his heart as a mother would fight for a child 
in the hour of danger. She followed him, we are 
told, " like his shadow ; insisted on a special and con- 
spicuous place by his side at reviews and other cere- 
monies, and generally strove to assume the position 
of a recognised favourite." She claimed and was 
given a suite of apartments in Napoleon's chateau of 
St. Cloud ; and at every State function at the Tuileries 
eclipsed all rivals by the splendour of her attire. 
Never was man placed in a more embarrassing pre- 
dicament than Napoleon, by this duel between two 
women for his favour. But the contest was from the 
first an unequal one. Youth and a fresher, more 
radiant beauty were bound to win the verdict, and all 
Miss Howard's brave struggles were powerless to 
avert the issue. 

When she learned that Napoleon had actually 
offered his hand to her rival, and that her hopes of 
wearing the wedding-ring were at an end, her rage 
and disappointment were quite tragic in their 
vehemence. She wept, and stormed, and fainted; 
vowed that she would end a life which was no longer 
of any value to her; and heaped reproaches on her 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

false lover, to whom she had given all, and from whom 
she had received this reward. But to all her tears 
and reproaches Napoleon was adamant ; he had made 
up his mind that the Comtesse de Teba should be his 
Empress and no other; and he declared that, unless 
Miss Howard " behaved herself," he would pack her 
off to America and finally disown her. 

This threat, and the hopelessness of her position, 
which she now fully realised, brought her at last to a 
proper state of submission, which her recreant lover 
rewarded with liberal gifts of money. " If I had but 
anticipated this," the deserted woman pathetically de- 
clared, " I should have done better to keep the 
3,500,000 francs which he was to have paid me by the 
end of 1853; and it was for this that I begged the 
Emperor to tear up the first amount two million and 
a half francs!" 

One cannot resist a tribute of pity for a woman 
whose long devotion had this shameful reward, or of 
contempt for the man who could prove so false to 
every sentiment of gratitude and loyalty. 

Miss Howard did not stay in Paris to see the crown- 
ing victory of her supplanter when, clad in a dress of 
AlenQon lace, her slender waist girdled by the famous 
diamond and sapphire belt (the first Napoleon's gift 
to Marie Louise) , and with her blue eyes glowing with 
happiness, Napoleon placed on her shapely head the 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

crown which his uncle had similarly placed on the 
head of his second wife. 

She sought distraction by travel in Italy, where she 
met and, in her pique, married a handsome and grace- 
less young Englishman, Clarence Trelawney, with 
whom she led an unhappy life until divorce at last set 
her free in 1865. 

But to her last day she never forgave the Emperor 
who had so spurned and slighted her. During her 
closing years, we learn, " she frequently appeared in 
the Champs Elysees and the Bois de Boulogne, driv- 
ing a pair of superb bays, and manoeuvring in such 
fashion as to meet their Majesties' equipage and stare 
at them. Again at theatrical performances she would 
turn her glasses with annoying persistency on the 
Imperial box, her face showing the scorn she felt for 
the crowned Judas who had betrayed her." 

The end of her life came with sudden tragedy. 
One August day in 1865, when she was still little over 
forty, she was in perfect health ; the next, her troubled 
heart was stilled in death. There were dark hints of 
poison; but why her days were thus suddenly closed 
in the prime of life and health must ever remain a 
mystery, as inscrutable as that of her birth, and of the 
conduct of the man to whose shallow affections and 
selfish vanity she sacrificed not only her life, but all 
that a woman holds dearest her fair fame. 



CHAPTER XVI 

A ROMANTIC WOOING 

THERE were Arundells in England " ere William 
fought and Harold fell "; and from the Conqueror's 
time, when Roger de Arundell counted his lordships 
up to twenty, to our own day they have always taken 
rank among our oldest and proudest houses. Their 
long pedigree bristles with doughty warriors, from Sir 
John (who wielded such a deadly sword in France for 
Henry VI.) downwards; and they have joined their 
blood in wedlock with many of the noblest strains in 
our Peerage. 

It was from this stock of brave men and fair women 
that Isabel Arundell drew her being, making her entry 
on the world's stage, on which she was destined to play 
so romantic and adventurous a role, one March day 
in 1831, within sight of the Marble Arch. She was 
the lineal descendant of Henry, sixth Baron Arundell 
of Wardour; and among her ancestors was that Sir 
Thomas Arundell who was cousin-german to Henry 
VIII., and, through his wife, near of kin to two of 
Henry's Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine 
Howard. She was, moreover, entitled to call herself 
" Countess " of the Holy Empire by virtue of her 

156 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

descent from the first lord; while her mother, sister to 
the first Lord Gerard, boasted a common origin with 
the Dukes of Leinster. 

Such was the proud heritage of blood of this 
daughter of Henry Raymond Arundell, who inherited 
a liberal share of the " bravery, dare-devilry, and love 
of conflict ' ' of the old Knights of Arundell and of the 
beauty of the Arundell women; and whose life was to 
give full play to these remarkable gifts. Her child- 
hood and early girlhood were spent in a white, 
straggling, old-fashioned manor-house in Essex, 
" buried in bushes, ivy, and flowers," where she led 
the free, untrammelled life of the country, drinking in 
health and beauty with every breath, scampering over 
the country with long poles and jumping the hedges in 
summer-time; sledging, skating and sliding in the 
winter-days; but finding her chief pleasure in the com- 
pany of such vagrant gipsies as passed that way. 

Among Isabel's Romany friends and admirers was 
Hagar Burton, who one day cast the horoscope of the 
beautiful English girl. " You will cross the sea," 
said the gipsy soothsayer, " and be in the same town 
with your destiny, and know it not. Every obstacle 
will rise up against you. Your life will be like 
one swimming against big waves; but God will be with 
you, so you will always win. You will bear the name 
of our tribe (Burton) , and be right proud of it. You 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

will be as we are, but far greater than we. Your life 
is all wandering, change, and adventure. One soul 
in two bodies, in life or death, never long apart." 
How strangely, uncannily true this prophecy was to 
prove, her story will show. 

Young as she was at the time, this daughter of the 
Arundells gave promise of exceptional beauty. " I 
had," she writes ingenuously, " large, dark blue eyes 
and long, black eyelashes and eyebrows. I had very 
white, regular teeth, and very small hands, feet, and 
waist. I had beautiful hair very long, thick and 
soft of a golden brown. My nose was aquiline. I 
had all the material for a very good figure, and once a 
sculptor wanted to ' sculp * me." 

At seventeen Isabel Arundell, radiant with health 
and youth, was taken from the country home in which 
she had spent so many delightful tomboy years to 
London, where she was soon caught in a whirl of gaiety 
and fashionable pleasures. In the exclusive circle of 
Almack's she was hailed as a new revelation of female 
loveliness. " I overheard someone telling my 
mother that I was quoted as the new beauty at the 
Club," she writes in her diary, adding, with perhaps 
a little mock humility, " Fancy, poor ugly me! " 

It was in this hour of her new delights of conquest 
that she confided to her diary her conception of the 
man she would marry if she married at all. ' My 

158 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

ideal," she wrote, " is about six feet in height, with 
broad and muscular shoulders, a powerful and deep 
chest. He has black hair, a brown complexion, a 
clever forehead, large, black, wondrous eyes. He is 
a soldier, a man, and a gentleman. . . . Such a 
man only will I wed. ' ' Thus unconsciously did Isabel 
Arundell draw a strikingly lifelike picture of the man 
whom, a few months later, she was to meet so dram- 
atically, and, after years of weary waiting, to wed. 

The scene of this romantic encounter was Boulogne, 
where Isabel went with her family in August, 1850, 
to spend a delightful year or two. " One day," she 
records, " when my sister and I were walking on the 
ramparts, the vision of my brain came towards us. 
He was (mark the description) five feet eleven inches 
in height, very broad and muscular; he had very dark 
hair, and dark, clearly-defined, sagacious eyebrows, 
a brown, weather-beaten complexion; straight Arab 
features; a determined-looking mouth, nearly covered 
by an enormous black moustache. But the most re- 
markable part of his appearance was two large, black, 
flashing eyes, with long lashes, that pierced one 
through and through. 

He looked at me as though he read me through 
and through in a moment, and started a little. I was 
completely magnetised; and when we had got a little 
distance away I turned to my sister and whispered, 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

' That man will marry me.' The next day he was 
there again, and he followed us and chalked up, ' May 
I speak to you? ' leaving the chalk on the wall; so I 
took up the chalk and wrote back, ' No; mother will 
be angry ' ; and mother found it, and was angry ; and 
after that we were stricter prisoners than ever." 

But, in spite of parental frowns, Isabel's fate was 
sealed from the first glance of those dark, magnetic 
eyes. Though she met her hero daily on the ramparts 
for many weeks, she exchanged no word with him; but 
at the sight of him, she confesses, " I used to turn red 
and pale, hot and cold, dizzy and faint, sick and 
trembling, and my knees used to nearly give way under 
me." Fate, however, was not long so unkind to the 
love-sick girl. One day she was invited to a tea-party 
and dance at the house of some relatives, and " there 
was Richard, like a star among rushlights ! That was 
a night of nights; he waltzed with me once, and spoke 
to me several times, and I kept my sash, where he 
put his arm round my waist to waltz, and my gloves, 
which his hand had clasped. I never wore them 
again. ... I saw Richard every now and again 
after that, but he was, of course, unconscious of my 
feelings towards him." 

Thus the months passed, full for Isabel of a heart- 
breaking longing for the love of the man to whom, 
though he knew it not, she had given her heart. " I 

1 60 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

suffered much and long," she confides to her journal, 
" and the name of the tribe, as Hagar Burton fore- 
told, caused me many a sorrowful and humiliating 
hour." And when, at last, the day dawned that was 
to take her back to England and away from him, it 
brought not even the poor solace of a leave-taking. 

Four long and dreary years, in fact, crept heavily 
by before Isabel Arundell again set eyes on the 
romantic figure which had wrought such havoc with 
her peace of mind. Meanwhile Captain Richard 
Burton, the " biggest daredevil " in the British 
Army, had risked his life on one mad enterprise after 
another. Disguised as a dervish, he had made his 
way through a thousand perils and hair-breadth 
escapes to the sacred heart of Mecca, where 
Mohammed's coffin swings between Heaven and earth; 
he had journeyed to Harar in Abysinnia, where no 
white man before him had ever dared to set foot; and 
had paid for his temerity by a lance through his jaw, 
which brought him to the verge of the grave. Burton 
had a narrow escape on his way to Mecca, but the story 
cannot be told here. 

Meanwhile Isabel was breaking her heart in Eng- 
land, praying for him, weeping for him, and crying in 
her diary, " Will he never come home! How strange 
it is; and how I still trust in Fate! " She scanned the 
papers every day for some scrap of news of her hero; 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and wrote, " I glory in his glory But I am alone and 
unloved. Is there no hope for me? " 

When he returned to England, shattered in health, 
she never caught a glimpse of him ; and within a month 
he was off again to brave the horrors of the Crimea. 
She made frantic efforts to follow him, as one of 
Florence Nightingale's nurses; but she was told that 
she was " too young and inexperienced, and would 
not do." Her only solace was to devote herself heart 
and soul to caring for the destitute families of the 
soldiers who were sharing her hero's danger. 

But the longest and darkest night leads at length to 
the dawn. And dawn came with the primroses in 
1856, when she was able to write in her diary, " I 
hear that Richard has come home and is in town. God 
be praised! " To know that he was near, though for 
some months she never saw him, was Heaven after 
the black years of waiting and praying and weeping. 
One August day, however, Fate led her steps to his. 
She was walking with her sister in the Botanical 
Gardens, when she met him face to face. " We imme- 
diately stopped and shook hands," she says, " and 
asked each other innumerable questions of the four 
intervening years. He asked me if I came often to 
the Gardens. I said, c Oh, yes, we always come and 
read and study here from eleven to one ' 
We were in the gardens about an hour; and when I 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

had to leave he gave me a peculiar look, as he did 
at Boulogne. I hardly looked at him, yet I felt it, and 
had to turn away. When I got home my mind was 
full of wonder and presentiment; I felt frightened and 
agitated." 

Many such happy meetings in the Gardens followed, 
during which Isabel " trod on air." At the end of a 
fortnight he stole his arm round her waist, laid her 
cheek against his, and asked, " Could you do anything 
so silly as to give up civilisation? If I can get the 
Consulate of Damascus, will you marry me and go and 
live there? " The ecstasy of the moment struck 
Isabel dumb with emotion. At last she found voice to 
falter out, cc I have prayed for you every morning and 
night; and I would rather have a crust and a tent with 
you than be Queen of all the world; and so I say now, 
1 Yes, yes, YES! ' " " When I got home," she 
says, " I knelt down and prayed, and my whole soul 
was flooded with joy and thanksgiving." 

For six years she had suffered, and prayed for this 
crowning moment; but the goal of her ultimate happi- 
ness was still far to seek. Her mother refused inexor- 
ably to give her consent to the alliance; and after a 
fortnight of this new-born happiness Burton was off 
again on another of his daring journeys-r-this time to 
explore the lake-regions of Central Africa; stealing 
away without a word of final farewell, in order to spare 

163 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

her the pain of parting. " My happiness," she says, 
" had been short and bright, and now I had to look 
forward to three years of my former patient endurance; 
only with this great change before, I was unloved 
and had no hope; now, the shame of loving unasked 
was taken from me, and I had the happiness of being 
loved and some future to look forward to." 

While her lover was braving hardships and daily 
risking his life among the untrodden ways of Central 
Africa, Isabel sought distraction in travel in Italy and 
Switzerland, until the glad day when she should see 
him again; and this day came in the late spring of 1859. 
When she read in the paper that he would soon arrive 
she wrote in her diary, " I feel strange, frightened, 
sick, stupefied, dying to see him, and yet inclined to 
run away, lest, after all I have suffered and longed 
for, I should have to bear more." 

But the hard heart of Fate was at last softened 
towards the woman who had borne its harshness with 
such patience during nine years of thwarted hopes. 
One beautiful May day she found herself in her lover's 
strong arms. " I felt quite stunned," she says; " I 
could not speak or move, but felt like a person coming 
to after a fainting fit or a dream. I would have given 
worlds for tears, but none came." And how proud 
she was of her gallant lover her very own at last! 
" I used to like to sit and look at him," she says, " and 

164 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

think, ' you are mine, and there is no man on earth the 
least like you.' " 

But all was not even yet smooth sailing for the long- 
parted lovers. Mrs. Arundell was deaf to all their 
pleadings, and nothing was left for them but to take 
their courage and their fate in their own hands, and 
to marry without her approval even without her 
knowledge. 

One January day in 1861 Isabel Arundell stole 
downstairs while her parents were still in bed, kissing 
their door as she passed; entered a cab, and a few 
minutes later was standing by her hero's side before 
the altar of the Bavarian Catholic Church in Warwick- 
street, while the words were spoken which set the seal 
on all her sufferings and all her patient love. And 
when her husband took her, after the ceremony, to his 
bachelor lodgings, she says, " A peace came over me 
that I had never known. I felt that it was for eternity, 
an immortal repose; and I was in a bewilderment of 
wonder at the goodness of God, Who had almost 
worked miracles for us." 

Thus, after much tribulation, Isabel (in later years, 
Lady) Burton reached the haven of peace in her 
husband's arms, to fare forth with him on such voyages 
of strange adventure as seldom fall to the lot of woman, 
and to carry beyond the grave such a love as has seldom 
blessed the life of man. 

165 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE MAD KNIGHT OF MALTA 

AMONG the families that left their lands and castles in 
fair France to accumulate lordships and honours under 
our Norman and Plantagenet Kings, not one can claim 
a prouder ancestry than the house of Courtenay, Earls 
of Devon. 

Even in their own native land, where they were 
firmly seated as Lords of Courtenai Castle and large 
estates before the Conqueror ever came to set a 
marauding foot on our shores, there was, Gibbon 
asserts, but one line superior to theirs in " achieve- 
ments " that of the Royal House of Bourbon. And 
even the Bourbons could boast no more Royal strain 
of blood than that which was the Courtenay heritage 
when, it is said, Elizabeth of Courtenai was led to the 
altar by Peter, son of King Louis le Gros. 

However this may be, we know that more than seven 
centuries ago Reginald de Courtenay, who came to 
England in the retinue of Henry II.'s Queen, 
Eleanor, was Baron of Okehampton, with ninety-three 
knights to do him homage and service; and that, during 
all these centuries, his descendants held their heads 
high among the proudest of our nobles. They mated 
with the daughters of Veres and Despensers, Talbots 
166 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and Bohuns, the cream of our feudal nobility; and one 
of them found a wife in a daughter of Edward IV. 
They were ever in the forefront of battle, and broke 
their lances against more than one King; while their 
voice was among the most powerful in the councils of 
their Sovereigns. 

It is inevitable that the story of a family so ancient 
and so eminent should hold many romantic chapters. 
Not the least strange is that which tells how the 
Courtenay Earldom lay dormant for nearly three 
centuries, through a stupid misreading of the patent 
of creation, until William, third Viscount Courtenay, 
thanks to the keen and trained eyes of Sir Harris 
Nicolas, established his claim in 1831, and gave a new 
lease of life to it. But perhaps the most remarkable 
chapter of all is that which tells the story of the ' f mad 
knight of Malta," on whom more than one person now 
living in the county of Kent may have set eyes as 
children. 

Before William, Lord Courtenay, had enjoyed his 
restored Earldom a year, and when he had taken his 
new honours out of the country for a time, there 
appeared at Boughton-under-Blean, a village between 
Canterbury and Faversham, a magnificent individual 
who announced himself to the world as " Sir William 
Percy Honywood Courtenay, Knight of Malta, son of 
Lord Courtenay and heir of Lord Mount-Cashell." 

Naturally, the appearance of such a great man 

167 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

caused a flutter among his rustic neighbours, who were 
as impressed by his geniality as by his splendours and 
his rank. There was no false pride about this blue- 
blooded scion of the Courtenays; he was hail-fellow- 
well-met to any rustic who touched his hat to him; and, 
although he was familiar with the magnificence of 
Courts, he was as ready to hobnob with Giles over a 
glass of pothouse beer as to crack a joke with King 
William himself, who, he said, was one of his bosom 
friends. 

He had a mission in life, he confided to his bucolic 
admirers, that of regenerating society. He would do 
away with those hateful tithes; he was a champion of 
pure election; he intended to free the poor from taxa- 
tion; to sweep away Corporations; and he painted to 
his open-mouthed friends a glorious day when each 
cottager should feast on roast beef and plum-pudding, 
washed down by copious draughts of nut-brown ale. 

Such were the seductive lures Sir William displayed 
to his companions of the taproom and the cottage, who 
knew not (and probably cared less) that my lord of 
Devon had no such son as this genial stranger in their 
parts, who was moreover no more heir to Lord Mount- 
Cashell than to the Man in the Moon. Nor did they 
know that, a few months earlier, " Sir William " had 
been masquerading at the Rose Inn, Canterbury, as 
Count Rothschild; or that, less than a year before that, 

168 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he had been serving pennyworths of gin and whisky 
over a bar in Truro, where he had signed his name, 
' John A. Thorn." Such was the true origin of the 
fraudulent " Knight of Malta " who came in 1832 to 
dazzle the eyes and fuddle the brains of the Boughton 
rustics a small spirit-dealer in a Cornish town, known 
to his friends as plain " John Thorn." 

From Boughton the fame of the " noble lord " 
whose mission was to revolutionise life for the poor 
spread throughout the countryside, until he counted 
his friends and supporters by hundreds. It is little 
wonder then that, when December of 1832 brought a 
General Election, there should be a general cry for 
Courtenay, " the poor man's friend, and the apostle 
of reform." 

At Canterbury the show of hands was declared to be 
in his favour; and he actually polled 375 votes against 
the 800 odd scored by his successful opponents. And 
never surely did candidate present himself to electors 
in such gorgeous guise. 

"A Sir William Courtenay," wrote a Canterbury 
lady at the time, " has been haranguing the popula- 
tion here almost daily with novel and ludicrous 
addresses. He is encased in a superb dress of crimson 
velvet richly ornamented with gold lacings, tassels, 
and epaulettes; and he goes about armed with a valu- 
able sword and a dagger, which he occasionally 

169 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

threatens to use against any person who happens to 
interrupt him. . . . Although he is considered 
handsome, his face is much disfigured by a super- 
abundance of moustache and beard." 

To this magnificence, so calculated to impress the 
bucolic mind, he seems to have added the antics of a 
mountebank; for, we are told, at election meetings he 
" would bound over the heads of the people in front 
of him, and alight on the table in the centre of the hall 
in a theatrical attitude, quite a la Kean." 

Although our " Knight of Malta," the proud and 
urbane Courtenay, thus failed to secure a mandate for 
Westminster, he was incomparably the hero of the 
hour. To such a pitch of idolatry did he rouse the 
electors that on nomination day they crowded round 
his carriage in thousands, took the horses from the 
traces, and drew him in triumph to the Rose Inn, 
where, from the balcony, he carried his audience off 
their feet by his glowing oratory and his visions of 
Utopian days to come under his auspices. After the 
poll was declared he was again dragged in triumph 
through Canterbury streets to a jubilant, if discordant, 
accompaniment of bands; and again his eloquence 
swayed the multitude, like so many " reeds shaken 
with the wind," from the Rose balcony. 

Although this defeat was followed by a veritable 
Sedan when, at a later election for a division of the 

170 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

county, he polled barely a dozen votes, our Courtenay 
knight was by no means downhearted. He set to work 
to enhance his already great popularity with the lower 
orders; and spent his days touring the country in the 
most fantastic guises he could procure from theatrical 
costumiers, " standing treat " at every public-house 
on his route, and sharing a crust of bread and cheese 
at hundreds of labourers' cottages everywhere 
capturing hearts by his condescension, and dazzling 
eyes by his gorgeous raiment and courtly manners. 

But Nemesis was already on the track of " Sir 
William." In February, 1833, a smuggling-boat was 
captured by a Revenue cutter off the Deal coast, and 
the smugglers were hauled to Rochester to answer for 
their crime. It is true that nothing contraband had 
been found on the " Admiral Hood "; but the 
Revenue officers declared that, just before the capture, 
certain tubs had been flung overboard by the smugglers 
and picked up by the cruiser's crew. 

This was an opportunity not to be missed by the 
popularity-hunting knight, who appeared at the trial, 
and swore that he himself had seen the incriminating 
tubs floating in the water before the Revenue men came 
on the scene. For this flight of fancy he was indited 
for perjury, " wilful and corrupt "; and when it was 
proved that at the very time he professed to have seen 
the smuggled flotsam he was listening to a sermon at 

v 

171 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Boughton Church, Sir William had to listen to a 
sentence of three months' durance, to be followed by 
seven years' transportation beyond the seas. Before, 
however, he had served his three months he was 
declared insane; and, instead of spending his next few 
years in a foreign land, he spent them in the Kent 
County Lunatic Asylum, near Maidstone. 

Of course the man had been insane from (and pro- 
bably before) the day he left his Truro bar; but when 
the asylum doors closed on him in 1833 his amazing 
career was by no means ended. In 1838, after five 
years' confinement, he was back again in his old 
haunts, certified a sane man once more, and living 
modestly as a lodger at a farmhouse a few miles from 
Canterbury. His restored sanity, however, was short- 
lived; for, within a few weeks, we find him haranguing 
his rustic neighbours more vehemently than ever. Not 
content, as before, with painting glowing pictures of 
the good times coming, his appeal was now to their 
passions; his programme, one of violence. 

One May day in 1838 his projects came to a head. 
Rallying round him a few scores of his dupes, he set 
out for Fairbrook at the head of his bedraggled sup- 
porters, with flags flaunting the Courtenay lion 
fluttering in the breeze, and a pole crowned by a loaf 
of bread borne proudly aloft in the van. Each mile 
added recruits to the straggling army, until hundreds 

172 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

were seen marching under the Courtenay pennons as 
full of valorous talk as any men-at-arms ever led by a 
lord of Devon against Frenchmen or Scots in the long- 
gone centuries. 

For this was no pacific army. It was out to do 
doughty deeds; and, as their courage was recruited at 
every public-house on the way, Courtenay's soldiers 
began to cry aloud that they had " bloody work to 
do." At Dargate Common the army came to a halt 
while its leader, removing the shoes from his feet, 
prayed aloud half-an-hour on end, denouncing every- 
thing and everybody to the Almighty. After a night 
spent at Bossenden Farm, the march was resumed, by 
Sittingbourne, Newnham, Eastling and Selling each 
village and hamlet swelling the numbers, and blazing 
haystacks marking the route, until the rioters found 
themselves back again at Bossenden. 

Here Farmer Calver, who had already seen more 
than he wished to see of the Courtenay rabble, sent for 
the police; and three constables, armed with a warrant 
for " Sir William's " arrest, soon made their belated 
appearance. No sooner had the boldest of the trio 
advanced to make the arrest than " Sir William," pro- 
ducing a pistol, shot him dead. His respite, however, 
was brief. An urgent message was sent to Canterbury 
and Maidstone for soldiers; and within a few hours a 
hundred men of the 45th Regiment, led by Lieutenant 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Bennett, arrived on the scene, with a magistrate to 
represent the strong arm of the law. 

Meanwhile the Maltese knight and his followers had 
taken refuge in the heart of a neighbouring wood, 
determined to sell their lives dearly, their desperate 
courage stimulated by their leader's appeals to them 
to " quit themselves like men," and " not to count 
their lives dear." There was little time for such 
exhortation; for a hundred soldiers had already thrown 
around the rabble a girdle of steel and muskets; and 
the lieutenant was advancing to demand surrender " in 
the Queen's name." 

But almost before the first word had left his lips 
" Sir William," with deadly aim, had shot the officer 
through the heart. The madman's last moment had 
now come. Before the smoke had left the assassin's 
pistol, a volley of shots rang out. " Sir William " 
and nine of his dupes fell dead; many others were 
wounded; and the rest of the rioters were flying in all 
directions, as fast as fear-impelled legs could carry 
them. 

Thus ignominiously ended the career of the mad 
" Knight of Malta." He had come out to do 
sanguinary work, and sanguinary work had been 
done; for a dozen lives, including his own, had paid 
the price of his insane enterprise. As for his silly 
followers, many carried marks of that fatal day to their 
graves; some were transported for life; others were 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

sent for varying periods to cool their ardour within 
prison walls. It was a black day for the county of 
Kent; and it will be many a long day yet before the 
name of Courtenay is forgotten in hundreds of Kentish 
homes. 

But even death could not rob Courtenay of the popu- 
larity he had won by his specious arts. To quote Dr. 
C. Mackay, f< When the maniac Thorn or Courtenay 
was shot, in the spring of 1838, the relic-hunters were 
immediately in motion to obtain a memento of so extra- 
ordinary an individual. His long black beard and 
hair, which were cut off by the surgeons, fell into the 
hands of his disciples, by whom they were treasured 
with the utmost reverence. 

" A lock of his hair commanded a great price, not 
only among his followers, but among the more wealthy 
inhabitants of Canterbury and its neighbourhood. The 
tree against which he fell when he was shot was 
stripped of all its bark by the curious; while a letter 
with his signature to it was paid for in gold coins, and 
his favourite horse became as celebrated as its master. 
Parties of ladies and gentlemen went to Boughton from 
a distance of a hundred and fifty miles to visit the scene 
of that fatal affray, and stroke on the back the horse of 
the mad ' Knight of Malta.' If a strict watch had 
not been kept over his grave for months, his body 
would have been disinterred, and the bones carried 
away as memorials." 



CHAPTER XVIII 

A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY SYREN 

THE traveller whose steps took him as far as Florence 
about the time when Charles II. was restored to the 
throne of his fathers might, if he were fortunate, have 
seen something at least as fair as any other that city 
of beauty could boast. True, this vision of delight 
was only a child of some eleven summers ; but she was 
incomparably so contemporaries tell us the love- 
liest child in all Italy, with a cascade of glorious black 
hair rippling far below her waist, with eyes blue as 
Italy's own sky, and sparkling with irresistible gaiety ; 
a complexion delicately tinted as a rosebud; and the 
figure of a sylph, instinct with grace and an abound- 
ing vitality. 

Such was Christine Dudley, who to a beauty in- 
herited from centuries of fair northern ancestresses 
added the vitality and grace of the South. More 
Italian in many ways than the Italians, she was by 
birth half English and half French; the daughter, on 
one side, of a long line of Poitevin nobles; on the 
other, of one of the most splendid of English houses, 
having for great-grandfather that Robert Dudley, 
Earl of Leicester, whose fascinations made a love- 

176 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

sick woman of Queen Elizabeth almost to his last 
day. 

How this great grand-daughter of Dudley came to 
be the boast and toast of Italy is easily explained. 
My Lord Leicester's only son (whose legitimacy, by 
the way, was gravely questioned) had left England to 
make his home in Tuscany, and had so ingratiated 
himself with Ferdinand II. that that Emperor had 
made a Duke of him, leaving him to tack " Northum- 
berland " on to his new title. And as Duke of 
Northumberland Robert Dudley, the second, lived 
and died. Of his sons, Charles, the eldest, succeeded 
to the foreign Dukedom, and became the father of the 
fairy to whom we are now introduced, and who was 
later known from one end of Italy to the other as 
Duchess of Northumberland, or, alternatively, 
" Christina of Northumbria." 

It was inevitable that a girl of such rare charms 
and such exalted and romantic birth should have 
lovers by the score, even before she emerged from 
short frocks. All the youthful nobles in Florence 
and in Rome (where also some of her early years were 
passed) were the slaves of the " lovely little witch " ; 
and so great was her fascination that it is even said 
such a great man as the Constable Colonna, though 
he had for wife one of Mazarin's loveliest nieces, 

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ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

completely lost his head over the schoolgirl, and gave 
his wife many a pang of jealousy. 

Thus early did Christine Dudley begin to emulate 
the love adventures of her handsome great-grand- 
father, favourite of a Queen and breaker of women's 
hearts ; and to prove that, in her case at least, the girl 
is mother to the woman. But even she, conscious as 
she already was of the power of beauty, could not have 
foreseen the havoc she was to play in the years to 
come with the hearts of men and the peace of their 
wives. 

The prize which tempted so many gallants thus 
early was not long unappropriated. Christine had 
barely seen her fourteenth birthday when her hand 
was awarded, probably without any reference to her 
heart, to the Marchese Paleotti, a man of some family, 
but scarcely a match for this daughter of the great 
Dudleys. Probably her ducal father thought it high 
time his too fascinating and precocious daughter was 
consigned to the keeping of a husband, and was 
thankful to escape any future responsibility for her. 
However this may be, the child-wife was certainly 
none too happy in her new condition, although she 
seems for a time at least to have been quite a model 
spouse, as decorous and dutiful as any reasonable 
husband could desire. 

For eight years the Marchesa played this dutiful 

178 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

role, while her charms were reaching their rich and 
splendid maturity. It is a wonder that her pretty 
head had not, long- before this, been completely turned 
by the adulation and flatteries that were showered on 
her. Her fame had travelled far and wide as the 
loveliest of all the women in Italy, and her beauty was 
but one of her many charms. Every poet and gallant 
tried to outvie his fellows in the homage he paid to 
her. Sonnets rained on her ; her praises were sung in 
countless pamphlets and chronicles of the time; and 
swords clashed and blood flowed to vindicate her title 
as queen of living beauties. 

" Such loveliness, such grace, and such wit," wrote 
one enthusiastic admirer, " have never before been 
enshrined in woman." According to Ghiselli she was 
" the fairest, the most exquisite of her sex." Another 
of her slaves vowed that she was " an angel who had 
stooped to earth to show the possibilities of female 
loveliness." And so, in sonnet and chronicle and 
epigram, the story of Christine's superlative charm 
has come down to us through the centuries. Such was 
the fame of her beauty that we are told " Princes and 
great nobles came from far distant Courts to gaze on 
and pay homage to it"; and we know that the 
Emperor Leopold, in token of his homage, sent her a 
golden cross to wear. 

Even now that she was a wife the Constable 

179 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Colonna, who had been among her earliest admirers, 
could not resist making love to her when he saw her 
again, some years after she had worn her wedding- 
veil, at Milan. We have this on the evidence of the 
Constable's wife, the beautiful Maria Mancini, who 
writes : " The Marchesa Paleotti, daughter of the 
Duke of Northumberland, being then in the flower of 
life, attracted the eyes of all. Those of the Constable 
were no exception; and even had I been content not 
to take these stolen glances as signs of his passion 
for this fair lady, the attentions and assiduous com- 
pliments he paid her would have left me no room for 
doubt." Such is the striking tribute to Christine's 
fascination paid by one of the fairest and (in this 
case with good reason) most jealous women in 
Europe. 

In 1671, after she had been married eight years, the 
Marchesa began to weary of the homely virtues, and 
to seek distraction in a wider sphere innocent amuse- 
ment on her part, it seems to have been, but rather 
disastrous in its results ; for the most decorous of hus- 
bands displayed an unseemly alacrity to leave the 
most beautiful of wives to bask in her smiles; and 
strange tales are told of their follies and extrava- 
gances. In this year the Cardinal Legate found it 
necessary to send the siren for four months to a con- 
vent ; but whether this confinement was due to political 

1 80 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

causes or in order to put it out of her power to work 
more havoc history fails to enlighten us. 

Restored to freedom, the Marchesa, possibly out of 
revenge for such an indignity, appears to have given 
full play to her fascinations; and undoubtedly dur- 
ing this period, however really innocent her conduct 
may have been, she gave the tongue of scandal much 
cause to wag at her expense. Lovers flocked to her 
thick as bees to a sugar-bowl, and each tried to eclipse 
his fellows in the costliness of his presents and the 
ardour of his wooing. We read of one grave senator 
who showered costly jewels on her; of another who 
left his wife and defied the thunders of the Church to 
worship at her shrine. Men of all ranks and all ages 
joined the satellites which circled round her, and to 
one and all she was equally gracious and impregnable. 
She drank in their flatteries, received their presents, 
and played off one against the other to her infinite 
amusement. Like my Lady Shrewsbury of " wanton " 
fame, she loved to fan the flames of her lovers' 
jealousies, and was by no means ill-pleased when 
duels were fought and blood flowed for her. 

Several times she was banished by the authorities, 
alarmed by the havoc she was causing ; but she always 
reappeared, looking lovelier and more dangerous 
than ever, to resume her conquests and her " amuse- 
ments." "Within a month or so," says Teodor de 

181 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Wyzewa, " she is back again in Bologna, with all the 
husbands in the town flocking to her." 

And the remarkable thing is that, in spite of such 
" goings on," she was universally beloved. " The 
children," we are told, " fall in love with her, and do 
the maddest things to win her affection." Even the 
very wives whose husbands she had lured away were 
among the crowd of her worshippers ; so much so that 
when the Marchesa was once ordered off to her 
country-house by the Cardinal Legate, two of them 
the Marchesa Bentivoglio and the Contessa Canossa 
actually went on their knees to implore the Legate 
to call her back. As for the lower classes, they were 
her veriest slaves, from the coachmen and porters to 
the beggars in the street. 

So powerless was Time to touch her beauty that at 
forty she was constantly taken to be sister to her own 
daughter, so radiantly youthful was she. It was at 
this time, with her loveliness still at its zenith, that she 
inaugurated those conversazioni at the Paleotti Palace 
which caused so much, and often groundless, scandal. 
To these brilliant receptions flocked all the greatest 
men and most beautiful women in Italy, with many 
others who could not claim either description a mot- 
ley gathering with but one common link, an idolatrous 
admiration of their hostess. 

The jealousies thus provoked had their inevitable 

182 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

outlet, in such a hot-blooded country, in countless 
duels, and more than one murder. On one occasion 
almost all her guests were poisoned by chocolate 
served to them by a Turkish girl, a -protegee of the 
Marchesa; and one, the Marquis Guido Pepoli, died. 
Who was responsible for the poisoning does not seem 
clear; but suspicion pointed to the Marchesa's own 
son. In spite, however, of duels and poisonings and 
bloodshed, the lustre of the Marchesa's reign con- 
tinued undimmed. She turned the heads of all the 
men who entered her salon; and while receiving their 
presents and their honeyed words, forfeited none of 
the smiles of their wives. 

And while enjoying her own triumphs she did not 
forget to minister to the happiness of her less beauti- 
ful guests. She revelled in finding husbands for 
them ; and it is said she was responsible for hundreds 
of engagements, some of them ill-assorted, it is true, 
but for the most part reasonably happy. 

For her own daughter, Diana, who had inherited 
much of her mother's charms, she secured a splendid 
alliance none other than the son of her old lover, 
the Constable Colonna. When the youthful Prince 
Colonna first set eyes on the fair Diana, at a Bologna 
theatre, he promptly fell " head over ears " in love 
with" her, and vowed he would know no peace until 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he had won her for wife. The Marchesa was de- 
lighted, and having once caught the Prince in the 
toils gave him no chance of escape, although it re- 
quired two years of diplomacy to secure the consent 
of his parents. 

This supreme effort in match-making proved to be 
the climax of the Marchesa's era of splendour. For 
forty years she had reigned a queen over all hearts; 
there was no cup of pleasure that she had not drained ; 
no gift of Fortune that had not fallen, almost un- 
sought, into her lap. But no sun that ever shone, 
however brilliant, but comes at last to its setting; and 
the Marchesa's sun was destined to set in tragedy. 
Her memory has been assailed by those who never 
knew her; and no doubt her life was not as flawless 
as her beauty. But when we consider the country and 
the times in which she lived a land of hot passions 
and deeds of violence; an era of licence scarcely 
imaginable in our more sober day probably the 
gravest charge that can be brought against Christine 
of Northumbria is that she did not surround her 
beauty with the restraints of modesty and decorum, 
that she made her vanity minister to the unhappiness 
of others. 

But whatever the degree of her faults or her folly, 
she paid a heavy price for both before death came to 
claim her. Her favourite daughter, lovely almost as 

184 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

herself, shut herself in a convent, where she lost her 
reason, and died a madwoman. Another daughter 
was wedded to Count Roffeni, who treated her with 
infamous cruelty before deserting her; and when, 
freed by death from her tyrant, she became the wife 
of the Earl of Shrewsbury, she had to abjure her re- 
ligion, to her mother's intense and lasting grief. But 
the heaviest blow of fate fell when the son she loved 
so well, her " David," was driven in disgrace from the 
Italian Army and ended his days on the headsman's 
block in London. 

Crushed under these repeated blows, the Marchesa 
retired from the world, in which she had so long 
played so dazzling a part, to spend her last days in a 
belated piety, and to " review her past errors " with 
perhaps an excessive " abhorence." " I have no 
regret," she wrote in one of the exquisite sonnets 
which have survived her, " for the loss of the flower of 
my youth my desires are stilled for ever. All my 
pleasure is plunged in oblivion. As for the few days 
that remain to me of this world, I dedicate them, O 
God, to Thee." 

Thus, in loneliness and penitence, tasting the bitter 
dregs of the vanity of life, died the woman who, prob- 
ably more potently than any other, has wielded the 
sceptre of a dangerous beauty. 



CHAPTER XIX 

PEASANT OR COUNTESS 

WAS Maria Stella, Lady Newborough, the low-born 
daughter of an Italian peasant, or was she a Royal 
Princess, by right of birth the greatest lady in 
France? Such is the problem which her ladyship 
spent a fortune and half a lifetime in a vain effort to 
solve; and which to-day lacks conclusive answer as 
much as when, with her last gasp, this unhappy 
heroine of one of the most mysterious of Peerage 
romances branded Louis Philippe, King of France, 
" a brigand and usurper." 

Lady Newborough first opened her eyes on the 
world that was to bring her so much romance and 
tragedy in the small village of Modigliana, precari- 
ously perched on a slope of the Apennines. You may 
read to-day in the register of the village church the 
original record of her birth, which runs thus : " Maria 
Stella Petronilla was born yesterday to Lorenzo 
Ferdinand Chiappini, public constable of this place, 
and Vicentia Diligenti, his wife, both of this parish, 
and was baptised on April i7th, I773-" 

She was the first child of the rustic policeman and 
his dark-eyed peasant wife; and when other children 

186 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

followed in quick succession, the villagers were quick 
to note and comment on the difference between the 
fair-haired, blue-eyed Maria, with her dainty figure 
and air of grace and distinction, and the black- 
browed, coarse-featured little peasants who called 
her sister. 

Was it possible, the gossips whispered, that they 
could be children of the same parents? It was 
noted, too, with many a sly hint, that the great lady 
of the place, the Countess Camilla Borghi, showed a 
marked affection for the little fairy child, while ignor- 
ing her brothers and sisters; and it was whispered, 
" Ah, the Countess knows more than we do ! " And 
so probably she did. 

Had it not been for the Countess's kindness, Maria 
Stella's years would have been less happy than they 
were; for, although her father, the constable, always 
treated her with kindness and a curious deference, her 
mother's attitude to her was one of harshness and open 
dislike. The removal of the family to Florence, 
where her father had received an appointment as 
sergeant of police, was hailed with delight by the 
child, associated as it was with a promise that she 
should be trained for the stage. Three delightful 
years of singing and dancing lessons followed before 
the climax of her happiness was reached when she 
made her first curtsey in response to the applause 

187 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

which greeted her debut. At sight of her " beauti- 
ful as a dream, and graceful as a sylph " the Floren- 
tine audience completely lost their hearts ; and before 
she had concluded her first dance dainty, bewitch- 
ing, ethereal in its lightness they rose as one man 
and cheered her in an ecstasy of enthusiasm. 

Among the audience on this first night of her 
triumph was a sedate, plain -featured man of middle 
age, known to the Florentines as the " eccentric Eng- 
lishman," and in England as Lord Newborough a 
man who had squandered most of his fortune, and on 
the death of his wife, a daughter of the Earl of 
Egmont, had gone abroad to try to repair his shattered 
fortunes by a few years of obscure and economical 
living, little dreaming, no doubt, of the romance that 
awaited him in far-away Tuscany. 

To the British Peer, sated and disillusioned by the 
world's pleasures, the sight of this stage fairy, with 
her auburn hair and blue eyes, and intoxicating grace 
of movement, was a revelation of new delights, a re- 
newal of the youth to which he had bidden " good- 
bye." At any cost he must possess himself of her; 
and before he retired that night he had discovered 
her home, and had penned a letter to her father with 
an offer of his hand an offer which, accompanied as 
it was by promise of substantial bribes, proved too 
tempting to be resisted. 

1 88 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

The child, horror-struck at such a proposal, pro- 
tested, with tears and pleadings, against the proposed 
marriage. She loathed the offer; and when she saw 
her ugly, elderly suitor, she still more loathed her 
husband-to-be. But tears and entreaties were equally 
unavailing. Her constable-father was determined 
that she should, willy nilly, be " my lady," to the 
enrichment of his purse ; and within a few weeks Sir 
Horace Mann, then our Minister at Florence, was 
able to write home, " Lord Newborough, who has re- 
sided here in a very obscure manner since 1782, on 
nth inst. (February, 1786), signed a contract of mar- 
riage with a dancing-girl about thirteen years of age, 
the daughter of a constable." 

A few weeks of dazzling triumph on the stage, then, 
with dramatic suddenness, a loveless marriage to a 
man more than old enough to be her father, such was 
the strange experience of this beautiful child of 
mystery on the threshold of the new life to which she 
had looked forward with such glad anticipation. 
That such a union should be unhappy was inevitable. 
The girl-Baroness frankly detested her lord, and made 
no concealment of her dislike. Each day brought its 
quarrels, its rages, and its tears; until Lord New- 
borough, driven to despair, disappeared one day, 
leaving behind a note in which he declared his inten- 
tion of committing suicide. " My dear Lunatic," was 

189 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the only answer she vouchsafed, " if you wish to give, 
me the greatest proof of your affection, hasten to carry 
out your threat." 

Under such a chilling douche his resolution quite 
naturally evaporated. He returned to his little 
shrew; but found life so unbearable, through the exac- 
tions of the father and the mutiny of the daughter, 
that he was glad to escape to his native Wales, tak- 
ing his lady with him; and there, after some years 
of qualified peace, during which Lady Newborough 
bore two sons to him, he died in 1807, twenty-one 
years after his romantic and unhappy marriage to the 
dancing-girl. Within three years the Baroness was 
again led to the altar this time by a Russian noble- 
man, Baron Ungern-Sternberg a union which proved 
equally unfortunate. 

Thus, in the year 1820, we find Maria Stella, now a 
woman of forty-seven, seeking distraction by travel 
in her native Italy, and visiting, as an act of filial 
duty, her parents in their humble home in Florence. 
Her peasant father was now in very feeble health, and 
obviously at death's door; but, although she wished 
to tend him during his last days of life, she found, to 
her amazement, every obstacle put in the way of her 
seeing him. 

Occasionally, by subterfuge, and in the absence of 
her mother and elder brother, who did not conceal 

190 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

their aversion to her, she was able to spend a few 
moments by his bedside; but, although he greeted 
her with kindness and a smile of pleasure, he seemed 
strangely reserved and formal. He made mysterious 
references to some wrong he had done her the 
rambling, she concluded, of a wandering brain; for 
when she begged him to be frank and explain his 
meaning, he immediately changed the subject. That 
he was brooding over some secret of the past, how- 
ever, seemed clear. But what could the secret be? 
He died without giving any clue to it. 

A few months later the secret was partly revealed 
by a letter which was placed in her hands a letter 
written by her father some months before his death, 
and entrusted to a friend to give to her when he was 
no more, and which opened with the startling declara- 
tion, " My daughter you are not." It was a strange 
story that was thus unfolded in the feebly-penned 
words of the man she had always regarded as her 
father. A few weeks before Maria Stella's birth, the 
story ran, a great foreign nobleman had come with 
his wife and retinue to Modigliana. The lady was 
about to become a mother, and so was the writer's wife. 

It was of the utmost importance that the noble- 
man's wife should give birth to a boy-child ; and it was 
arranged between the fathers-to-be that, if the great 
lady's ehild should be a girl and the peasant's child a 

191 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

boy, the infants should be exchanged a favour for 
which the constable was promised a large sum of 
money. " His lady," ran the letter, " had a daughter, 
and my wife a son ; the children were exchanged, and 
I was made comparatively rich. The Countess, her 
husband, and boy, and their numerous suite, speedily 
left our quiet little town, and were never more heard 
of." 

Such was the remarkable story told by this voice 
from the grave; and as Maria Stella read, her feelings 
of amazement gradually gave place to one of delight, 
of triumph. She, who had always regarded herself 
as low-born, was in reality the daughter of a noble- 
man, the equal at least by birth of her two husbands 
and of all the great ladies whom, in spite of her title, 
she had looked on as creatures superior and apart. 
But who was this high-placed father who had so basely 
abandoned her, to adopt as his heir the base-born son 
of the peasant whom she had known as father? The 
discovery of this vital secret became the passion of 
her life. 

She lost no time in journeying to her birthplace, 
where from a priest, the Countess Borghi's confessor, 
she got her first clue. He declared that her mysteri- 
ous parents were the Comte and Comtesse de Join- 
ville. And his statement was confirmed by two old 
servants of the Countess, who vowed that she was 

1 92 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the very image of her high-born mother. The iden- 
tity of her parents thus disclosed, the next step was 
to discover who the Comte de Joinville was; and by 
travelling to Joinville she was able to learn that this 
was a title often assumed, during his travels, by none 
other than Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, a Prince 
of the Blood Royal of France. 

Here, indeed, was a startling discovery. To the 
delight of knowing that she was of noble birth was 
added the amazing disclosure that she was a Princess, 
the descendant of a long line of Kings, and one of the 
greatest ladies, not only in France, but in Europe ! 
Moreover, since this was so, the Duke's eldest son, a 
probable King of France, could be none other than 
the son of the village constable, who had so cruelly 
been put in her place as an infant. Was there ever 
in all the romantic drama of life a situation so incon- 
ceivably strange? The peasants' daughter had blos- 
somed into a Princess, a Prince's son and King-to-be 
^vas born to a peasant-cradle ! 

Equipped with this astounding knowledge, Lady 
Newborough set to work to secure public recognition 
of her rank and rights ; only to find how vastly more 
difficult it was to convince others than to satisfy herself. 
At first, it is true, her success was almost beyond ex- 
pectation. When she appealed to the Bishop of 
Faenza to have the record of her baptism amended, 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the investigation that followed resulted in an unquali- 
fied admission of her claim. " It is plainly proved," 
ran the judgment of the Bishop's court, " that the 
Comte Louis de Joinville exchanged his daughter for 
the son of Lorenzo Chiappini; and that Demoiselle 
de Joinville was baptised under the name of Maria 
Stella, with the false statement that she was the 
daughter of L. Chiappini and his wife." 

It now remained to prove to the world that the 
Comte de Joinville was identical with the Due 
d'Orleans, and to persuade Louis XVIII. to recog- 
nise her title to rank as a Royal Princess; and with 
this stage of her programme her troubles began in 
earnest. She squandered money right and left in 
fruitless efforts to secure these objects. She was 
victimised, one after another, by a succession of 
swindlers, to whom she gave large sums of money, 
with which each in turn promptly absconded, until 
her fortune, large as it was, was almost exhausted. 

She travelled far and wide through the countries of 
Europe to secure support to her pretensions; but 
everywhere rebuffs and disappointments were her lot. 
Thus the years passed, each leaving her more and 
more broken in health and shattered in hope and 
heart. As a last extremity she published her story 
to the world in a book entitled " Maria Stella, or the 
Exchange of a Girl of the Most Exalted Rank for a 

'94 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Boy of the Lowest Condition " ; but no sooner had 
the edition appeared than it was seized and destroyed 
by order of the King the constable's son, who had 
escaped the peasant-cradle to mount the throne of 
France. 

This was the last crushing blow to her hopes. 
From that cruel day she resigned herself to despair. 
For thirteen years more she dragged the weary bur- 
den of life, nursing her sorrow and her baffled 
ambition in her rooms in the Rue Vivoli, watching 
through her windows the passing of the King who had 
stolen her birthright from her ; surrounded by pictures 
of the Orleans family, which, while proclaiming her 
unmistakable likeness to them, were a constant re- 
minder of the glories she had so tragically missed; 
and feeding the sparrows which fluttered in flocks to 
her window-sills to enjoy her bounty. 

Thus, in solitude and sorrow, Maria Stella, Lady 
Newborough, closed her eyes one December day in 
1843, with the boom of the cannon in her ears which 
proclaimed to the world the opening of the Chamber 
by the King who, however innocently on his own part, 
had wrecked her life, and who to his last day, crowned 
monarch as he was, remained a peasant in looks and 
speech and manners, and, moreover, the exact dupli- 
cate of the village constable. 



195 



CHAPTER XX 

THE EARL AND THE BUTCHER'S DAUGHTER 

WHEN Frederick Augustus, fifth Earl of Berkeley, 
rode with his attendant groom into Gloucester city one 
autumn day in the year 1784 we may be sure that no 
thought of love or of romance entered a mind absorbed 
in the business that had brought him thus far from his 
grim ancestral castle. 

For nearly forty years he had kept a heart untouched 
by the assaults of Cupid. Many a maid " of high 
degree and fair to see ' ' had brought the battery of her 
smiles and charms to bear on this handsome lord of 
half a county, with a rent-roll of 50,000 a year; but 
not one of them all had captured his fancy. And as 
he rode that fine October morning through the 
Gloucestershire lanes, he would no doubt have laughed 
aloud had anyone suggested to him that he was making 
the first stage on one of the most romantic journeys 
ever undertaken by a British Peer. 

In addition to his broad acres, his historic castle and 
his elongated rent-roll, my Lord of Berkeley could 
boast a lineage which, for length and distinction, had 
few rivals in England. As he glanced down the long 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

vista of his ancestry he could well afford to smile at 
the family-trees of many of our proudest Dukes, whose 
very names were unknown when his own tree had 
struck down its roots and spread its branches for 
centuries. 

Before the Conqueror ever set foot on Kentish soil 
the first forefather of his name had, it is said, been 
cradled in a Royal Palace in Denmark. And, even 
if this be fiction, we know certainly that Robert Fitz- 
Harding was firmly seated at Berkeley, a man of 
power and large possessions, while the first Henry 
was still wearing his crown. And from Robert, down 
through the long centuries, lord has succeeded lord 
at " proud Berkeley," winning coronets as Baron, 
Earl, and Marquis, and mingling their blood with the 
noblest strains of the age of feudalism. 

Such then was my Lord of Berkeley proud of his 
blood and his vast estates, and heart free on the verge 
of middle-age, as he rode Gloucesterwards through the 
glories of an autumn day in the year 1784; as secure, 
one would have thought, as man could well be against 
the pitfalls of Cupid. But in love, it is notorious that 
man is seldom in greater danger than when he counts 
himself most secure; and thus it proved with his Lord- 
ship of Berkeley. 

As he was dismounting at the door of Gloucester's 
principal inn, his eyes fell on an approaching vision of 

197 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

girlish grace and loveliness and remained there. 
Familiar as my lord was with beauty, he had never 
seen it in such a fresh and dainty guise, and yet so 
modest and so unconscious of its peerlessness. The 
girl who so innocently was walking to meet her fate 
was no mere rustic beauty with a face of " cream and 
roses." There was a distinction and grace in her 
carriage which an Earl's daughter might have envied 
without being able to emulate. 

Her well-poised head was crowned with a wealth of 
rippling brown hair; the perfect oval of her face, with 
its complexion pure as a lily, was illuminated by a pair 
of dark eyes, whose sweetness and tenderness their 
long, curling lashes could not veil. Lips, rosy red 
and exquisitively shaped into a perfect bow, with a 
smile lurking at each corner; dimples which played at 
hide and seek in each softly-rounded cheek; and a well- 
modelled chin, eloquent of character such, in the cold 
medium of print, was Mary Cole when first the eyes 
of Lord Berkeley fell upon her in a Gloucester street. 

As the middle-aged Earl rode homeward through 
the dusk of that October evening the lovely face of 
which he had caught such a brief glimpse was ever 
floating before him. Try as he would, he could not 
escape it. It haunted his dreams that night, and 
pursued him in his waking hours in the days that 
followed, until he realised that he could know no rest 

198 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

until he had seen it again and again; until, in fact, he 
had made it his own. 

How he returned to Gloucester; how he made the 
acquaintance of the owner of that tantalising, peace- 
destroying face, and discovered in her the daughter 
of a red-faced, jovial butcher of the city; of the many 
sweet and stolen meetings that followed, which left our 
Earl more than ever a slave and more determined to 
win the prize on which all his happiness now hung 
of all this period of sweet wooing, and the final 
winning, the story is too long to be told here. 

It must suffice to say that one March day in 1785, 
half a year after the first fateful meeting, Mary Cole, 
the butcher's daughter, was installed as chatelaine of 
Berkeley Castle 

Where Berkeley's right and Berkeley's might 
Did meet on Berkeley's Castle height. 

The Cinderella from the butcher's shop had become 
a Countess, the successor in that role of women who 
were born to such proud names as de Ferrers, Lisle, 
Stafford, and Mowbray. 

So well does the Earl seem to have kept his secret 
that, although Berkeley Castle is but twenty miles 
distant from Gloucester, none of his high-placed neigh- 
bours, from the Duke of Beaufort downwards, appears 
to have known of the identity of the new Countess with 
Mary Cole, the butcher's daughter. He had led her 

199 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

to the altar as " Miss Tudor," a high-sounding name 
enough; and although there was naturally much specu- 
lation as to her antecedents, all suspicion was quickly 
disarmed by the graciousness and simple dignity with 
which she played her new and exalted part. 

Thus passed eleven ideally happy years, during 
which the peasant Countess bore four sons to her lord, 
and moved among her husband's noble friends as if 
she had been cradled in a castle. Then, to the amaze- 
ment of the world, the Earl once more led the 
Countess, and the mother of his children, to the altar; 
and with every circumstance of publicity made her his 
wife for the second time. What was the meaning of 
this singular proceeding? Surely it could only mean 
that the Earl and his " lady " had been living all 
these past years as husband and wife without the sanc- 
tion of the Church! Such were the questions and 
speculations that ran from mouth to mouth among the 
scandalmongers in Gloucestershire, and far beyond the 
limits of the county. But to all such rumours the Earl 
turned a smiling and inscrutable face. The only 
explanation he vouchsafed was that " as his first 
marriage had been, for reasons of his own, secret, he 
had thought it well to repeat the ceremony in as public 
a manner as possible." 

In the face of such indifference and such calm 
assurance, the voice of calumny could not long persist; 

200 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

and whatever doubts and secret speculations might 
remain, the Countess still held her head as high as 
ever, and played the part of chatelaine of Berkeley 
Castle as if no doubt had ever been thrown on her title. 

Fourteen more years of happy life awaited my lord 
and my lady during which three more sons and two 
daughters came to the castle nursery before the Earl, 
now full of years, died one August day in 1810; and by 
his death introduced a new and startling scene in the 
drama of his life-romance. 

When his eldest son, " William Fitzhardinge 
Berkeley, commonly called Viscount Dursley," pre- 
sented his petition to be called to the House of Peers 
as sixth Earl of Berkeley, it became necessary to prove 
his legitimacy to establish the alleged secret 
marriage at Berkeley in the year 1785; and this proved 
to be no easy matter. 

It is true that the late Earl had solemnly affirmed 
in his last will and testament that the marriage of 1785 
had actually been celebrated in private in Berkeley 
Church; but this declaration, in the absence of proofs, 
could not be allowed to determine such an important 
matter as the title to a seat in the House of Lords. 
Lord Dursley's petition was referred by the Regent 
to a committee of the House of Peers; and an enquiry 
was instituted which brought strange things to light. 
Distinguished counsel were engaged on both sides, and 

201 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a searching investigation was made into the ante- 
cedents of the Countess and the story of her two 
marriages. 

In vain Sir Samuel Romilly, the most astute pleader 
of his day, protested, " You have the declaration of 
the dead Earl with regard to his first marriage to the 
Countess. You have also her ladyship's evidence of 
this marriage, establishing it to the minutest detail; 
and, as final and conclusive proof, you have the entry 
of the marriage in the register of Berkeley Parish 
Church/' 

The evidence of the marriage as given by the 
Countess seemed indeed conclusive in itself. There 
had been present at the ceremony, which took place 
early in the morning of March soth, 1785, five persons 
the officiating clergyman, the bridegroom and bride, 
and two witnesses, one of whom had signed his name 
' W. Tudor." The other witness, one Barnes, was 
not to be found probably he was dead, as the alleged 
ceremony had taken place more than a quarter of a 
century earlier. But " W. Tudor " was available to 
give his evidence; and he proved to be none other than 
a brother of the bride, who had, for the occasion, 
assumed the name " Tudor," the name in which, it 
will be remembered, his sister was said to have 
appeared at the altar. 

In addition to the evidence of the Countess and her 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

brother, who, in their different characters of principal 
and witness, swore that the Berkeley marriage had 
taken place, there was produced the Register of Banns 
which contained an entry of the publication of 
the banns in writing which was admitted to be that of 
the officiating clergyman. 

So far, the claimant's case seemed unimpeachable. 
But as the case against his claim was unfolded, a very 
different complexion was put on it. When the 
marriage-register was produced, the required entry was 
there beyond question. But instead of being found 
on a page of the register, it appeared on a slip of paper 
or parchment which had been placed between two pages 
of the register, pasted together, and had thus, evidently 
for years, evaded inspection and examination. 

Moreover, the widow of the officiating clergyman, 
who was dead, declared that the entry was not, to the 
best of her belief, in her late husband's handwriting; 
thus pointing to the conclusion that, although the 
banns had been legally published, the marriage had 
not been celebrated, and that the entry in the marriage- 
register was a forgery. In the face of such evidence, 
the solemn declaration of the dying Earl and the sworn 
statements of the Countess and her brother naturally 
carried little weight. 

To place the matter still further beyond doubt, the 
Countess's mother who had lived to see one daughter 

203 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

wedded to an Earl ; another the wife of a General ; and 
the third married to a Baring, member of a family 
which has added four noble houses to our Peerage 
point-blank repudiated the evidence of her daughter. 
And, fatal oversight, in the register recording the later 
and public nuptials the Earl had declared himself a 
" bachelor," and his bride, a " spinster." Thus, 
under the searchlight of the House of Lords' enquiry, 
the flimsiness of the claimant's case stood pitilessly 
revealed; and his claim to a seat among the Lords was 
declared to be not established. 

The conclusion of this strange romance can be told 
in few words. Lord Dursley, thus deprived of his 
legitimacy and his titles, was reduced to the rank of 
a Commoner. The castle and broad acres, however, 
were his; and as a man of vast wealth, and the most 
important, except the Duke of Beaufort, in all 
Gloucestershire, he spent the next score of years as 
Colonel Berkeley, living in regal style in his castle, a 
patron of the Turf, and a famous huntsman; and in 
London as a man of fashion and Society, haunting the 
green-rooms of the theatres and the gambling saloons 
of St. James's. 

In 1831 he was raised to the Peerage as Baron 
Segrave, and thus found his way at last to a seat in 
the Lords, whose door had been so long barred against 
him; and, ten years later, he recovered his lost rank 

204 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

of Earl when Lord Melbourne, as fitting tribute to a 
Whig stalwart who had five seats in the Commons at 
his disposal, commended him to Queen Victoria for 
a patent of Peerage as Earl Fitzhardinge. 

The Earldom of Berkeley, during all these years, 
had belonged by right to the fifth son of Mary Cole 
and her Earl, Thomas Moreton Fitzhardinge, the first- 
born child of the legal union; but, with praiseworthy, 
if Quixotic, self-denial, he persistently refused to wear 
a coronet, the acceptance of which would cast an asper- 
sion on his mother's virtue and his dead father's fair 
fame. He preferred to live and die a Commoner; 
and, as he never married, the Earldom, the succession 
to which had brought to light one of the most romantic 
dramas in the story of our Peerage, passed to a cousin, 
whose son is the Earl of to-day. 



205 



CHAPTER XXI 

TWO MADCAP MAIDS OF HONOUR 

AMONG the many ladies fair and frail who have played 
their romantic parts in the drama of the Peerage 
from La Belle Stuart, who allied the artlessness of a 
child to the wiles of a finished coquette, to that merry 
madcap, Frances Jennings none of them were better 
equipped by nature for the conquest of hearts than two 
of the Maids of Honour who danced their way through 
the dismal Court of the first of our Georges. Surely, 
never did sprightly maidens find themselves in a more 
dreary and chilling environment than in the Court over 
which the lethargic, beer-guzzling George and his 
mistress, the grim-faced, gaunt, angular Von Schulen- 
burg presided, and in which youth and beauty were an 
offence, and high spirits a crime. 

Picture for a moment the life of a Maid of Honour 
in this transplanted German Court, as described 
by Pope. ' To eat Westphalian ham in a morning, 
ride over hedges and ditches on borrowed hacks, come 
home in the heat of the day in a fever, and with a red 
mark on the forehead from an uneasy hat. As soon 
as they can wipe off the sweat of the day, they must 
simper an hour in the Princess's apartment; from 
206 







THE HONBLE MARY BELLENDEN 

AFTERWARDS 

MRS. CAMPBELL 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

thence to dinner with what appetite they may and 
after that, till midnight, walk, talk, work, or think as 
they please. I can easily believe," adds Pope, " no 
lone house in Wales, with a mountain and a rookery, 
is more contemplative than this Court. 5 ' 

Such was the Court and such the life to which Mary 
Bellenden, younger daughter of John Lord Bellenden, 
was transported straight from the schoolroom a pretty 
little madcap, brimful of health and irrepressible 
spirits, equally ready to box a too forward Page's ears 
and to pull the chair from under the august and acidu- 
lated Schulenburg herself. 

No wonder the sober-sided German courtiers were 
aghast at Mary Bellenden's pranks, of which a poet 
of the time gives this inkling : 

But Bellenden we needs must praise, 
Who, as down the stairs she jumps, 
Sings, " Over the hills and far away," 
Despising doleful dumps. 

But even the most doleful of Teutonic dumps were 
powerless against such impishness allied to such 
radiant virginal loveliness. " Her face and person," 
says Walpole, who had ever an eye to a pretty maid, 
" were charming; lively she was almost to etourdene; 
and so agreeable she was that I never heard her men- 
tioned afterwards by one of her contemporaries who 
did not prefer her as the most perfect creature they 
ever knew." Such was " Smiling Mary, soft and fair 
as down," who brought sunshine into George I.'s 
207 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

gloomy Court and stirred its sluggish waters as they 
had never been stirred before. 

Mary Bellenden's twinkling feet and merry 
laughter had not long disturbed the peace of the 
Whitehall Court before she had thawed the most frigid 
of German hearts. Even Schulenburg, the " May- 
pole Duchess," condescended to pinch her cheeks and 
to give her an approving pat on the head. George was 
tempted to leave his beer-pots and the company of his 
" unspeakable Turks " to bask in her sunshine, and 
pay clumsy court to her; while the Prince of Wales 
was her very slave, ready to join in her pranks and 
practical jokes, and to laugh when he in turn was made 
the victim of them. 

But King and courtiers the little minx treated with 
equally tantalising indifference. She would flirt with 
them, tease them, laugh at them, but not an ear would 
she lend to any serious advances. One day, we are 
told, the Prince, when sitting by her side, " took out 
his purse and counted his money over and over again. 
The giddy Bellenden at last lost her patience, and 
cried out, c Sir, I cannot bear it! If you count your 
money any more I will go out of the room. ' The chink 
of the gold," says Walpole, " did not tempt her any 
more than the person of his Royal Highness." 

But though crowns and coronets alike failed to 
dazzle the Maid of Honour, her heart was quick to 
answer to the voice of true love, even when uttered by 

208 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a plain, untitled gentleman; and while she was still in 
her 'teens she gladly gave her hand to Colonel Camp- 
bell, Groom of the King's Bedchamber, who had lost 
his heart to her when first she set foot in Whitehall. 

That she might some day wear the Coronet of a 
Duchess (her husband, indeed, succeeded to the Duke- 
dom of Argyll, but only after he had mourned her loss 
a quarter of a century) had no weight with her. She 
was ideally happy with her husband in the country life 
he loved, far remote from the glamour of Courts. 

We get a brief glimpse of this idyllic, if bucolic, life 
in a letter she wrote to her friend, Mrs. Howard. " I 
have four fat calves," she wrote one day in 1723, " two 
fat hogs, fit for killing, twelve promising black pigs, 
four white sows, ten young chickens, three fine geese, 
sitting with thirteen eggs under each all this, with 
rabbits and pigeons, and carp in plenty, beef and 
mutton. Now, Mrs. Howard, if you have a mind to 
stick your knife into anything I have named, say so! " 

Thus, prosaically, but supremely happily, the little 
madcap of George's Court spent her few remaining 
years, until unkind Death claimed her, before she had 
seen her fortieth birthday. She left behind her four 
sons and a daughter, the latter finding a husband in 
the Earl of Ailesbury. 

Less happy was the fate of " Molly Lepel," 
another Maid of Honour whose beauty and gaiety also 
brightened the Court of the first George; and who to 

209 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

personal charms as great as those of Mary Bellenden 
added a witty tongue, a clever brain, and a refinement 
all her own. Molly Lepel came of no noble English 
stock. Her father was a Pomeranian, who came to 
England with George's " menagerie " as Page of 
Honour to the new King; and, entering the Army, 
rose to the rank of Brigadier-General. 

Von Lepel's beautiful daughter had barely seen her 
fourteenth birthday when she was taken from her books 
to play her part on the dull stage of the Court life; 
and, like Mary Bellenden, to shock the proprieties by 
her light-hearted pranks and romps. She, in her turn, 
soon had a small army of lovers at her feet, from the 
dissolute Prince of Wales to Sir Robert Walpole, who 
would gladly have made her his wife though he was 
almost old enough to be her father. But Molly only 
laughed at the wooing of the burly, hard-drinking, fox- 
hunting Sir Robert and the indelicate advances of the 
Prince. The only one of her many wooers who found 
favour in her eyes was the handsomest, and most con- 
temptible, of them all John Lord Hervey, the 
biggest dandy of his day, and also the most 
effeminate. 

My Lord Hervey must have cut a very brilliant 
figure in those days of his dandyism in his straw- 
berry-coloured coat, his laced waistcoat, and black 
velvet breeches. Fine Mechlin lace adorned shirt- 
bosom and wrists; he wore red-heeled shoes with 

210 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

brilliant buckles, and gold-clocked stockings rolled up 
over the knees. His flowing peruke with its long 
queue was drenched with perfume and powder; and 
when he took the air in the Mall he left behind him a 
fragrant wake of musk, civet, or orange-water. A 
sword and a snuff-box with a mirror concealed in its 
lid completed the equipment of this Prince of " Pretty 
Fellows," who caught the wayward fancy of the Maid 
of Honour. 

That Lord Hervey was handsome beyond his 
fellows, that his figure was a model of elegance, and 
his raiment unrivalled in its gorgeousness, his enemies 
could not deny. He was, too, a man of wit and high 
culture; but of real manliness he had as little as a 
popinjay. In Court circles he was known as " Lady 
Fanny." Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who 
frankly despised and hated him, described him as " the 
most wretched profligate man that ever was born, 
besides ridiculous." His profligacy had, indeed, for 
years been the scandal of the town, which was none 
too easily shocked in those days by amours even the 
most flagrant. He was, in fact, when he wooed and 
won Mistress Lepel, the dainty, winsome, witty Maid 
of Honour, a worn-out roue, concealing behind a 
flaunting exterior a craven heart. 

But, poor creature as my Lord Hervey was, he was 
the only man on whom Molly Lepel cared to smile; 
and her love remained undimmed to his last hour, when 

211 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he carried " a painted face and toothless head " to a 
discreditable grave. So infamous was he that he was 
ready to barter his wife's charms for his own advance- 
ment. It was at her husband's instigation that she, 
who had hitherto been a pattern of propriety, schemed 
her utmost to take the place of the Duchess of Kendal 
in King George's favour; and she played her cards 
with such skill and success that the " Maypole," 
alarmed for her supremacy, induced the King's 
Ministers to " buy her off " with a douceur of 4,000, 
every penny of which went into Lord Hervey's pocket 
to be squandered on his lights o' love. 

It is little wonder that such a cur fell under the lash 
of Pope's most scathing satire. " That thing of silk, 
that mere white curd of asses' milk," must have 
quailed when he read the poet's scorn in the most 
terrible lines ever penned by that venomous satirist: 

Amphibious thing ! that acting either part, 

The trifling head or the corrupted heart ; 

Fop at the toilet, flatterer at the board, 

Now trips a lady and now struts a lord. 

Eve's tempter thus the Rabbins have expressed, 

A cherub's face, a reptile all the rest ; 

Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust, 

Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust. 

Of this " painted child of dirt that stinks and 
stings " (to quote Pope again) we are told, in his own 
words, that he " never takes wine or malt drink, only 
water and mild tea two days a week he ventures on 
the tender white meat of a chicken for dinner; for 

212 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

breakfast, dry biscuit and green tea; for supper, bread 
and water no butter and no salt." No wonder the 
miserable wreck of a man was driven to use paint to 
" soften his ghastly appearance.'* And yet to the 
last his painted face and clever tongue retained their 
power to hypnotise almost every woman who came 
under their spell, from the Princess Caroline to Lady 
Mary Wortley Montagu. 

Mated though she was to this pitiful apology for 
a man, Molly Lepel seems to have been reasonably 
happy. Certainly she presented a smiling face to the 
world, and continued unchecked her career of con- 
quest. Pope, while scarifying her husband, grew 
eloquent over her " merit, beauty, and vivacity "; 
Voltaire was proud to be her slave, and declared him- 
self her lover in the only verses he ever wrote in our 
tongue : 

Hervey, would you know the passion 

You have kindled in my breast? 

* # ^ # #: # # 

In my silence see the lover 
True love is best by silence known ; 
In my eyes you'll best discover 
All the power of your own. 

Even when age had robbed her of her charms, Lady 
Louisa Stuart wrote of her: " She must have been 
singularly captivating when young, gay, and hand- 
some; and never was there so perfect a model of the 
finely-polished, highly-bred, genuine woman of 

fashion." 

213 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Thus, the ex-Maid of Honour lived with her 
despicable husband, a loyal wife and loving mother 
of his children, until his death in 1743, when she 
vowed, in her sorrow, that she could never be happy 
again. " Yet," she bravely added, " I will be as 
little miserable as possible, and will make use of the 
reason I have to soften, not to aggravate, my 
affliction." 

The rest of her years she spent chiefly at her beauti- 
ful country home, Ickworth Park, tending her roses 
and entertaining her many friends and admirers. Her 
last days were clouded by terrible suffering, which she 
bore with a courage and patience that amazed her 
friends; and she carried a brave heart to the grave. 
Among her last words were these, addressed to a 
clerical friend: " 'Tis not death that I fear, but it is 
the way to it. It is the struggles, the last convulsions 
that I dread; for when once they are over, I don't 
question but to rise to a new and better life." 

Thus, twenty-five years after the death of that 
" thing of silk and asses' milk," her husband, came to 
her rest Molly Lepel, the second of the two Maids of 
Honour whose beauty and merry pranks had stirred 
the Court of the first George to its sluggish depths; and 
who had turned their backs on it to seek and in one 
case at least, to find the happiness that comes to true 
love. 

214 



CHAPTER XXII 

A NOBLE DEGENERATE 

THE noble house of Wemyss has carried an unsullied 
shield through seven centuries, since its founder, John, 
grandson of Gill-Michael, fourth Earl of Fife, first 
bore its name ; and the pity is that its blood was ever 
tarnished by such an ignoble strain as came to its sixth 
lord from the veins of Colonel Francis Charteris, 
whom Arbuthnot stigmatised in the most scathing 
epitaph ever penned as " the most unworthy of all the 
descendants of Adam " ; a man " who persisted, in 
spite of age and infirmity, in the practice of every 
human vice, excepting prodigality and hypocrisy; his 
insatiable avarice exempting him from the first, and 
his matchless impudence from the second." 

That Francis Charteris deserved quite such sweep- 
ing condemnation may be open to doubt ; that he was 
a pastmaster of many of the worst vices, his life-story 
makes only too manifest. He was a human pervert 
of the worst type, a man who never chose the straight 
path if he could reach his goal by tortuous and for- 
bidden ways. 

There was nothing in his antecedents to explain 
this vicious strain in Charteris's blood. He was a 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

member of an ancient and honourable family which, 
at his birth, had been settled on its Haddingtonshire 
lands for four centuries of high repute. His mother 
was the daughter of a noble house; and through his 
father, as through her, he was blood-kin to half the 
nobility north of the Tweed. It was his misfortune, 
no doubt, that he was cradled in the licentious days of 
the second Charles, and that contamination came to 
him, at a most susceptible age, from the Merry 
Monarch's lascivious Court. 

In addition to his birth, Nature had dowered him 
with uncommon physical qualities. He was, we are 
told, tall, elegant, of courtly manners, and highly 
accomplished. The road was clear to high and 
honourable places, had he but chosen to take it ; but at 
its threshold he elected to follow the devious and 
shady paths which always seemed to allure him. 

As a youth he had a rare opportunity of winning 
laurels with his sword as an ensign in Marlborough's 
army in Belgium. But such a strenuous and danger- 
ous way to fame was not to his liking. He preferred 
the card-table to all the laurels Mars could give him ; 
and here he found a congenial field for his tastes and 
gifts. Before long he had stripped his brother officers 
of all the money they possessed ; and such gains as he 
did not squander in dissipation he magnanimously 
lent to his victims at a hundred per cent, interest. 

216 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Such a state of things, coupled as it was with more 
than a suspicion of foul play, could not long escape 
notice. The young subaltern was arrested by Marl- 
borough's orders, tried by court-martial, and ignomini- 
ously drummed out of the regiment, leaving his 
broken sword behind him. 

Nothing daunted by his disgrace, Charteris quickly 
found a new opening in the army in Flanders; and 
so ingratiated himself in the favour of his superiors 
that he was despatched to England carrying a large 
sum of money with which to raise recruits. On his 
way across the sea, however, he yielded again to the 
lure of the cards, and was so thoroughly fleeced that 
he landed at Harwich without a penny in his pocket. 

In spite of his empty purse, he dined expensively 
at the best inn in the town, and retired to rest in the 
happiest frame of mind. Early next morning he 
rang his bell violently, called for the landlord, and, 
in a great state of rage, declared that, during the night, 
someone had stolen his breeches, and, with them, sixty 
golden guineas. In vain did the terrified innkeeper 
protest his ignorance and innocence. Charteris raged 
so violently and threatened such vengeance and public 
exposure, that the poor man was at last driven, not 
only to replace the missing garment, but to borrow 
and liand over sixty guineas thankful even at such 
a price to be rid of the " mad Englishman," and little 

217 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

dreaming that his guest had himself burnt his breeches 
during the night ! 

Thus supplied with his ill-gotten gold Charteris 
made his way to his parents' roof, where he was re- 
ceived with open arms as a returned hero ; and a little 
later we find him in the thick of the gaieties of Edin- 
burgh, a welcome guest in all the most exclusive 
houses of the Scottish capital. This was an oppor- 
tunity of re-establishing his fortunes not to be missed. 
Once he was invited to play cards with the Duchess 
of Queensberry; and, thanks to a mirror in front of 
which he contrived to place his hostess, he won 
'; 3,000 of her money without raising the ghost of a 
suspicion against his honour. 

In another venture he was less fortunate. He was 
caught in the act of using loaded dice ; was seized by 
his designed victims, stripped of his clothes, and had 
to submit to the humiliation of standing in a corner of 
the room during the rest of the evening. In spite, 
however, of such experiences and his tarnished name, 
he was able to woo and wed the pretty daughter of Sir 
Alexander Swinton ; and, before Edinburgh got quite 
too hot for comfort, he carried his bride and his 
knavish gifts to a fresh field of enterprise in London. 
Here he entertained lavishly, and quickly qualified as 
a social favourite and leader, robbing his guests at the 
card-table as opportunity served. 

218 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

He still hankered after the Army, however; and in 
1710 we find him spending three thousand of his ill- 
gotten guineas in the purchase of a company in the 
Foot Guards, thus finding new scope for his knavery. 
He kept his company at half strength, and drew pay 
for the whole, and pocketed the balance; he also ex- 
torted large sums from his men before he would grant 
them a discharge. In these and a score of similar 
ways he lined his pockets richly, until his career was 
brought to a full stop. His peccadilloes were re- 
ported to Parliament; a committee of enquiry was 
appointed ; and the adventurous Captain paid for his 
vagaries by having to listen on his knees to the 
Speaker's severe censure, and by a sentence of dis- 
missal from the Army. 

His career as a " soldier " was not, however, closed, 
even by such an ignominious experience. With the 
words of the Speaker still fresh in his memory he won 
the rank of Colonel from a Colonel Holmes at the 
card-table; and, a few years later, he was playing a 
double part in the Pretender's rebellion in Lancashire, 
ready to sell his allegiance to whichever party was 
prepared to offer the best terms for it. All the advan- 
tage he seems to have secured was that he was allowed 
to take from the beaten Jacobites thirty horses to re- 
place, those of which, he alleged, the insurgents had 
robbed him at his castle of Hornby. 
219 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

As there was no more plunder to be won with his 
venal sword, the Colonel once more returned to the 
card-table, where his curious conceptions of honour- 
able play frequently got him into trouble. Once a 
young nobleman, from whom he had won a large sum, 
gave him a sound thrashing, and vowed he would not 
stop until the money was returned. " Go on/' gasped 
Charteris between the blows. " I'll take as much as 
you like, but not a penny will I refund." On another 
occasion, in a brawl with another of his dupes at 
Edinburgh, he settled the affair by biting his victim's 
nose off ! 

Not content with his spoil of the gaming-table, he 
reaped a rich harvest by shady dealing in the South 
Sea Stock. And as fast as his dishonest gold flowed 
in he invested it in lands or stocks, until his wealth 
assumed large proportions. He became lord of 
Hornby Castle; he bought large estates in Scotland, 
from one of which he blossomed into " Charteris of 
Amisfield " ; and to them he added fat manors in 
Lancashire. Our bogus Colonel was now one of the 
great landowners and richest men in Great Britain. 

It would have been well if he had been content to 
enjoy in seemly ways his riches, however shamefully 
acquired. His memory would have been less un- 
savoury than it is in the nostrils of posterity. Sated 
now with the pleasures and profits of the card-table, 

220 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he sought another indulgence for his depraved tastes. 
He had, it is true, already won an unenviable reputa- 
tion as a rake ; but there were many more laurels to be 
won in this field, and he determined to add them to his 
crown of infamy. One shameless intrigue followed 
another in quick succession; wherever his baleful 
steps took him he left behind him a wake of ruined 
lives, until he became the most hated and feared man 
from John o' Groats to Land's End. 

He seldom accepted hospitality which he did not 
basely betray. On one occasion, when a kind-hearted 
Yorkshire rector offered him the shelter of his home 
until he recovered from a slight accident on the road, 
Charteris repaid his Good Samaritan by eloping with 
one of his daughters, only to abandon her under 
shameful circumstances. The very house which shel- 
tered his wife and daughter he made the scene of dis- 
graceful orgies, to find a parallel to which we must go 
back to the midnight revels of the " Regent of the 
Roues." 

So enraged was public opinion against Charteris's 
shameless doings that on one occasion a furious mob 
besieged his house in Hanover-square, broke all the 
windows, and clamoured fiercely for his blood and the 
release of his victims. After one of his escapades, 
more daring and heartless than usual, he was arrested ; 
and, in spite of the eloquent pleading of his counsel, 

221 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

was sentenced to death. But before his well-merited 
sentence could be executed, family influence had 
obtained a pardon from the King. 

Worn out now with excesses, he was brought almost 
to death's door by a serious illness; and for a time, 
like the " Devil when he was sick," turned his 
thoughts to piety and atonement. He had actually 
engaged an architect to build twenty-four almshouses 
for his natural children, when recovery set in, and with 
it a longing to resume his wickedness. To complete 
his restoration to health he went to Aix la Chapelle 
to try the fashionable cure ; and here he " played his 
cards " so well that he is said to have added another 
thousand a year to his already large income. 

Back in London, his health now repaired for a fresh 
lease of licence, he resumed his interrupted life of so- 
called " pleasure " ; but had scarcely made his first 
adventure when he found himself in serious trouble. 
As the result of a grave charge made against him by 
a girl named Ann Bond, whom he had inveigled into 
his service, he was arrested and brought to trial at the 
Old Bailey in February, 1730. A verdict of guilty 
was recorded against him, and once more he listened 
to the death sentence. 

His plight was now pitiful. Loaded with irons, sick 
in body, and despairing in mind, this lord of castles 
and many manors was at last face to face with a dis- 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

graceful and seemingly inevitable death. There was, 
it is true, still one slight hope. His case had been 
referred to the Privy Council ; his powerful relatives, 
including his daughter's husband, the Earl of 
Wemyss, were moving heaven and earth to secure his 
pardon; but for once the felon in his cell utterly lost 
both heart and hope. Once more, however, he was 
destined to escape the fate he had so well earned. 
The Privy Council, thanks largely to the eloquent 
pleading of Charteris's counsel, Duncan Forbes, 
advised the King to pardon the miscreant; and he 
was again a free man. The first time he ventured out 
for an airing, his carriage was stopped by a mob of 
roughs, who dragged him out and gave him such a 
severe drubbing that he decided to wipe the dust of 
London finally off his feet. 

His race was now nearly run. Broken in health, 
he became so ill that the end was only a matter of 
days. Nemesis had at last overtaken him; and as 
he lay on his deathbed, tortured by fears for his 
future rather than by remorse for his past, he repeat- 
edly " offered 30,000 to anyone who would assure 
him there was no such place as hell." To the minister 
who was summoned to the dying man's bedside he 
refused to listen, fearful that he would expect some 
payment for his services. When his daughter, Lady 
Wemyss, assured him that the parson's services were 

223 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

gratuitous he said, with a sigh of relief, " Well, then, 
let us have a flourish from him." 

It was during a terrific storm, amid the crashing of 
thunder and the tumult of the elements, that Char- 
teris's soul left the debauched temple of his body to 
appear before a tribunal from which there could be 
neither appeal nor escape. But even death was 
powerless to shield him from the world he had out- 
raged. As the hearse conveying his body to its last 
resting-place passed through an avenue of jeering 
men and women, it was pelted with filth and garbage ; 
and when at last the coffin was lowered into its vault 
in the church of Greyfriars, in Edinburgh, " the car- 
cases of dead cats and dogs were flung in to bear it 
company." 

By a settlement, Charteris's wealth was left to his 
daughter's second son, Francis, who, as sixth Earl of 
Wemyss, transmitted to his descendants a name asso- 
ciated with more infamy than any other in our 
Peerage, but, happily, none of the vicious tendencies 
that made it infamous. 



224 



CHAPTER XXIII 

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF AN EARL 

IN the middle years of the Second George, England 
was gasping with amazement and shedding sympa- 
thetic tears over the pages of a pamphlet entitled 
" The Adventures of an Unfortunate Young Noble- 
man," which unfolded a story so incredible, so seem- 
ingly impossible, that the most daring writer of fiction 
would have shrunk from presenting it in the guise of 
romance. The hero of this strange story had crowded 
into his short life more vicissitudes, more amazing ex- 
periences, than had probably fallen to the lot of any 
man who ever lived certainly than had ever found 
a place in Peerage history. 

This singular drama opens in the street of an Eng- 
lish village. A ragged, barefooted boy, little more 
than a child, is the centre of a mob of rough village 
lads, who are raining cowardly blows on him, and call- 
ing him every vile name that leaps to their lips. " I 
am no ' dog ' or * scoundrel, 3 " gasped the white-faced, 
indignant boy amid a shower of blows and abuse. " I 
am better than any of you, for my father is a lord ; and, 
when I am a man, I shall be a lord, too," a statement 

225 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

which was greeted with shrieks of laughter, and still 
heavier blows for " my lord," the beggar. 

Fortunately, at this moment the door of a neigh- 
bouring cottage opened, and an old woman, emerging, 
rescued the boy from his tormentors and dragged him 
into safety. " Tell me," she asked, when he had re- 
covered a little, " why they called you ' a lord/ " 
" Madam," was the startling answer, " my father is 
Lord Altham, and my mother is Lady Altham; but 
she has left the Kingdom, and they say I shall never 
see her again." " But who tells you all this ?" asked 
the good Samaritan. " I know it very well," the boy 
replied. " I lived in a great house once, and had a 
footman; and then was carried to a great school, and 
was reckoned the head boy there, and had the finest 
clothes. Afterwards I was carried to another school, 
and there they abused me sadly, because they said 
my father would not pay for me." Such was the story 
told by the " beggar-boy " to his rescuer ; and, in- 
credible as it seemed, every word of it was true. 

The tattered child of the bare feet was in fact James 
Annesley, son of Arthur, fourth Baron Altham, and 
of Mary, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham and 
Normandy the descendant of a long line of 
knightly and noble Annesleys, which reached un- 
broken to the days of the Conqueror. During his 
earliest years this son of a lord and grandson of a 

226 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Duke had been cradled in the luxury of his rank, until 
an estrangement between his parents and his father's 
reckless extravagance had wrought a tragic revolution 
in his life. He became an object not only of indiffer- 
ence, but of hatred to his father, especially as his 
existence was a barrier to the raising of money to feed 
the Baron's extravagance. He was, as he said, re- 
moved from the great school where he wore the 
" finest clothes " to another, where, as his father re- 
fused to pay his fees, he was treated with indignity, 
and made to perform the most menial offices. 

He was " cruelly beaten, and while other boys were 
at their school exercises, he was employed in drawing 
water, cleaning boots and knives, or some other ser- 
vile office." For two years he bore this life of humili- 
ation until he could bear it no longer. Then, in 
desperation, he ran away, in search of the father who 
had so cruelly abandoned him. For weeks he wan- 
dered aimlessly in his quest, begging his bread and 
sleeping under hedges, in barns or church porches, 
until he was, as we have seen, rescued by the good 
Samaritan from the brutality of the village lads. 

Although he knew it not, the boy's wandering steps 
had carried him to the neighbourhood of his father's 
house ; and the woman who had given him the shelter 
of her roof and the generous hospitality lost no time 
in communicating with the Baron. His lordship, 

227 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

however, declared that the boy was no son of his, and 
refused even to see him. 

A few day's later the boy's uncle, the Hon. Richard 
Annesley, made his appearance, and asked to see him. 
" What name is this you take upon you ?" he asked in 
a stern voice. " I take none upon me, sir," was the 
answer, " but what I brought into the world with me. 
Nobody will say but I am the son of Baron Altham." 
" By whom ?" demanded the gentleman. " By his 
wife, the Baroness Altham." " Then," exclaimed the 
uncle, " you are a bastard, for your mother was a 
reprobate." " If I was a man," indignantly answered 
the child, with tears in his eyes, " you should not use 
my mother or me thus." 

" Though you are no child of my brother and no 
nephew of mine," the visitor at last condescended to 
say, " I will see that you are properly provided for." 
And a few days later the boy was taken from his bene- 
factress and placed on board a ship bound for Pennsyl- 
vania, with instructions to the captain to sell him, on 
arrival to the highest bidder. Over the horrors of the 
voyage to a distant land and to slavery it is well to draw 
the curtain. By captain and sailors alike he was 
treated with every cruelty and humiliation that a 
fiendish ingenuity could devise; and when he was 
driven to tears and protests, he was confined in the hold 
of the vessel. 

228 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

When the ship at last reached its destination he was 
promptly sold as slave to a rich planter in Newcastle 
County, called Drummond; and thus commenced a 
new life of horrors at the very time that his father 
died, and his uncle succeeded to the Barony of 
Altham. To this title were added, ten years later, the 
Earldom of Anglesey, the Viscounty of Valentia and 
the Barony of Montnorris, to all of which the planta- 
tion slave was the rightful heir. 

Picture now our young Baron, the assured succes- 
sor to the family Earldom, the slave of a cruel task- 
master, herding with his fellow slaves, in daily terror 
of the lash, and toiling long hours daily at the felling 
of timber, a task far beyond his boyish strength, in a 
pestilential air. " The horrors of this time," he wrote 
in later and happier years, " I cannot recall without a 
shudder. It was an Inferno, relieved only by the 
kindness of an aged female slave, who was a veritable 
mother to me. For four years, until her death, she 
watched over me, shielded and cared for me, teaching 
me all she knew of education. For a year after her 
death I bore the drudgery, the daily oppression and 
the degradation. Then I could bear it no more. I 
fled, carrying with me a hedging-bill for my protec- 
tion. For days I wandered, mostly foodless, in the 
woods. Then occurred a dramatic incident which 
nearly proved my undoing." 

229 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

He was lying one evening, footsore and weary, at 
the foot of a tree, when he heard the sound of horses 
galloping in his direction. Soon there came in sight 
two mounted men, one of whom had a girl mounted 
behind him. When they had approached within a 
few yards of his resting place they alighted and spread 
a meal on the grass, and proceeded to partake of it. 
The sight of food proving too strong a temptation to 
the famished young Baron, he revealed himself ; and, 
after telling his story, was invited to share the repast, 
and to accompany them on their journey to the sea, 
where they proposed to embark for Holland. 

Before, however, they had proceeded a mile on their 
resumed journey, they were overtaken by a pursuing 
party; and after a brief and fierce fight, they were 
taken prisoners, and lodged in the nearest gaol. 
There the Baron learned that his companions were 
fugitives from justice that they had robbed a wealthy 
planter, husband of the lady of the pillion, who had 
taken the opportunity to escape with her lover. For 
five weeks the Baron remained in durance ; he saw the 
three companions of his adventure executed ; and him- 
self narrowly escaped the same fate, only to be handed 
over to his old tyrant and master into a slavery more 
horrible than before his flight. 

Thus, when liberty seemed almost within his grasp 
he found himself consigned to a bondage so cruel and 

230 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

harsh that the law intervened in his favour, and com- 
pelled his master to sell him to another. After three 
years of suffering in his new servitude he again 
escaped, and this time had actually come within sight 
of the sea and a friendly ship, when he was again 
captured, and sentenced to five years of slavery, in 
place of the one year that remained of his term. 

This second blow seems to have crushed the young 
nobleman's spirits. He fell, we are told, into a deep 
melancholy, and became so seriously ill that his 
master, fearing to lose his property, took him into his 
house and consigned him to the care of his wife and 
daughter a condition which, however pleasant for a 
time, brought new trouble on his head. 

The planter's daughter lost her heart so completely 
to the handsome young invalid that she knew no hap- 
piness except by his side; and, throwing all modesty 
aside, she implored him to return her affection. This 
in itself was a sufficiently embarrassing position for a 
slave, however noble, to be placed in; but it was 
aggravated by rivalry of a very serious nature. One 
of his fellow slaves, a young Indian maid of great 
beauty, conceived an equally violent passion for the 
Baron. " She, too, made no secret of her love. She 
vowed she would marry him when his time of servi- 
tude had expired, and that she would work so hard 
for him as to save him the expense of two slaves." 

231 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Was ever youth placed in such an awkward dilemma 
the object of a violent attachment to his master's 
only daughter and his master's slave ? In vain did he 
protest indifference to both. Each was consumed by 
the fires of jealousy, each was of an equally fierce and 
vindictive nature and tragedy was in the air. 

One day when the Baron was restored to health, 
Maria, the planter's daughter, was making her way to 
a distant field where he was working, when she met her 
rival. Angry words and recriminations ensued. The 
Indian maid, in a frenzy of rage, flew at Maria like a 
tigress, and it was only with the utmost difficulty, and 
after a fierce struggle, that the latter succeeded in 
escaping with her life; while, baffled of her revenge, 
the Indian girl rushed to a neighbouring river and 
ended at once her love and her life. 

This tragedy was followed, for the planter's 
daughter, by a severe illness, during which, in her 
hours of delirium, the story of her passion came to her 
parents' ears, and her father, in natural alarm, de- 
cided to be rid of a slave whom he by no means 
desired as a son-in-law. Instead, however, of 
giving him his liberty, as he promised, he sold him 
to another master for the remainder of his term of 
slavery. 

For a time, the Baron now fell on happier days. 
His new master treated him with kindness, gave him 

232 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

light tasks to perform, and precious privilege 
allowed him the run of his library. " These," to 
quote his lordship's words, "were the only days of my 
slavery on which I care to dwell ; for, compared with 
all the horrors that had preceded them, it was as an 
escape from hell to heaven. Unluckily, however, my 
kind master died after I had been with him three 
years, and again I was sold into slavery, this time to a 
master in Newcastle County, almost within sight of 
my first plantation. 

" In the neighbourhood lived the two brothers of 
Turquoise, the Indian maiden whose love for me had 
had such a tragic ending; and they, I learnt, had 
vowed to kill me as the cause of their sister's death. 
They watched me narrowly, and, in spite of all my 
caution, attacked me one day in a remote part of the 
woods, and would certainly have killed me had not 
some persons, in search of a runaway slave, provi- 
dentially arrived on the scene and seized the would- 
be assassins. As it was, I escaped with a knife- 
wound on the hip, which kept me a prisoner for two 
months." 

Thus disaster followed on disaster. Nor was this 
by any means the last. One day he chanced to over- 
hear a conspiracy between his mistress and a neigh- 
bour's slave to rob her husband and escape together 
to Europe. Waiting until the guilty pair had 

233 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

separated, he followed his mistress, told her what he 
had overheard, and succeeded in persuading her to 
abandon her design, promising in return that no word 
of her secret should ever escape his lips. This 
adventure had a strange sequel. The woman con- 
ceived a strong passion for the young lord, and when 
he refused to gratify it was so enraged that she tried 
to poison him an attempt which was happily unsuc- 
cessful. 

This last experience determined Annesley to make 
one more desperate bid for freedom. One Sep- 
tember day, in 1740, he made his escape, and after 
terrible privations and many hairbreadth escapes from 
discovery by his pursuers, he reached the sea and 
boarded a ship bound for Jamaica. To the captain 
who had thus befriended the fugitive, he told his 
singular story, with the result that, not only did it 
meet with credence, but he was sent to England to 
prosecute his claims to the estates and titles of which 
he had been so cruelly robbed. 

The rest of James Annesley's story one of the 
most remarkable any man has ever survived to tell 
may be told in a few words. On his arrival in Eng- 
land he introduced himself to the agent of his family, 
and soon succeeded in enlisting the sympathy and 
help of powerful supporters. He was recognised by 
the nurse of his childhood, who, the moment she saw 

234 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

him, exclaimed, "That is my boy!" and flung her 
arms around him in an ecstasy of joy. 

Within a few months an action for ejectment was 
commenced against his uncle Richard, Earl of Angle- 
sey, Viscount Valentia and Baron Altham and Mont- 
norris; and the cause came on for trial in the Irish 
Court of Exchequer in November, 1743. During the 
case the life-story of the " unfortunate young noble- 
man " was unfolded to the Court, amid a breathless 
silence broken only by sobs and ejaculations of sym- 
pathy and wonder. In vain did the defence attempt 
to prove that the claimant was illegitimate. The 
evidence was overwhelming, conclusive, in his favour ; 
and after fifteen days a verdict was returned for the 
plaintiff. 

Thus, after adventures such as outstrip all the 
imagining of fiction, and after sufferings such as have 
seldom fallen to the lot of man, James Annesley, 
Earl, Viscount, and Baron, came at last to his own. 
The family estates he took; but the titles he left to 
the usurper the uncle who had been wearing a 
coronet while its rightful owner was herding with 
slaves on American plantations. 



235 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE MISER WHO REFUSED A CORONET 

" THAT most puzzling of human paradoxes the 
meanest man who ever lived, and also one of the most 
generous, giving with prodigal hand to the stranger 
while denying himself a crust." So spoke Lord 
Beaconsfield of that strange freak of humanity, John 
Elwes, thrice Member of Parliament for Berkshire, 
a man of colossal wealth, and one of the most sordid 
misers who ever drew the breath of life. 

If it is asked how Elwes, the miser, finds a place 
in this series of Peerage Romances the answer is ready 
and conclusive. Pitiful object as he was, Elwes was 
the descendant, through his mother, of a long line of 
knightly and gentle ancestors, and had in his veins no 
mean strain of noble blood, derived among other 
sources from the Herveys, Earls of Bristol. Sir 
Gervais Elwes, a famous Governor of the Tower of 
London, was among his forefathers; a line of Baronets 
figures on his family-tree; and he himself might have 
worn a coronet had he but said " Yes " to Lord 
North's offer of a Barony. Thus our miser is entitled 
to a place in the romantic stories of the Peerage; and 
it is safe to say that his life-story is one of the most 
remarkable in its pages. 

236 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

John Elwes was born " with a silver spoon in his 
mouth." His father, John Meggot, was a man of 
wealth and broad acres, who left behind him 100,000 
when the embryo miser and M.P. was still in 
the nursery; and, in later years, Elwes inherited from 
his mother's brother, Sir Hervey Elwes, himself a con- 
firmed miser, a quarter of a million of money, together 
with a lordly seat at Stoke, in Suffolk, and large 
estates. Thus, if ever a man had small excuse for 
parsimony, it was John Elwes. 

His boyhood and youth appear to have been quite 
normal. He was educated at Westminster School; he 
travelled widely, like other young men of position, and 
excelled in many manly sports, especially in the 
hunting-field. Indeed, until his uncle's death added 
so largely to his fortune, he seems to have differed 
little, if at all, from the ordinary man of wealth and 
leisure. 

With this accession, however, to his money-bags he 
seems to have inherited his uncle's parsimonious 
habits; for certainly from this time his whole character 
was changed, and henceforth his chief object in life 
seems to have been to save pence although he might at 
the same time squander thousands. A typical story 
illustrates these two strongly-contrasted sides of his 
character. Lord Abingdon, one of his friends, had 
made a Turf match for 7,000, but was unable to pro- 

237 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

duce his stake. Without even waiting to be asked, 
Elwes offered his lordship the money, which there was 
a strong probability he would never see again. 

On the appointed day, Elwes, accompanied by a 
clergyman friend, rode to Newmarket to see the match, 
starting on the long journey at seven o'clock in the 
morning. At four o'clock in the afternoon, some time 
after the match had been decided in Lord Abingdon's 
favour, the parson, who was now ravenously hungry, 
suggested to Elwes that it was time to adjourn to a 
hotel for dinner. " Very true, very true," was the 
answer. " I am rather hungry myself. Here, do as 
I do "; and producing from his overcoat-pocket a 
mildewed pancake which, he said, he had brought from 
his house at Marcham two months earlier, he handed 
half of it to his famished friend. And Elwes started 
on the journey home, munching his two-months old 
pancake and chuckling at having saved the cost of a 
dinner, while risking 7,000. 

On another occasion, after playing at cards the 
whole night and losing some thousands of pounds, he 
made his way on foot from the gilded salon in which 
he had staked and lost a fortune to Smithfield Market, 
to haggle over a shilling with a butcher, while trying 
to sell some of his cattle, and to stay the pangs of 
hunger by munching a mouldy crust. 

At this time, the owner of at least 30,000 a year 

238 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

was actually keeping foxhounds and a stable of hunters 
(his one extravagance) on less than 300 a year an 
economical feat which becomes intelligible when we 
learn that he paid his huntsman who also discharged 
every other duty of his household, from milking the 
cows to preparing his master's breakfast the lordly 
sum of five pounds yearly. But even an annual 300, 
he decided, was too great an extravagance for a man 
of his means; and hounds and hunters were soon 
sacrificed to his passion for miserliness. 

But though he could not afford this small sum for 
his one pleasure, he was ready at any moment to 
advance thousands to any adventurer who asked for 
them, or to a friend who was in need of a loan. In 
these ways he is said to have lost at least a hundred 
and fifty thousand pounds. In spite, however, of his 
losses, riches rolled in upon him like a torrent. His 
mountain of gold grew yearly, until it approached 
nearly a million pounds; and with the growth of his 
wealth his miserliness kept pace. Whenever he 
started on a long journey (all his travelling was done 
on horseback) he would carefully choose the roads 
where turnpikes were fewest; and for a day's food 
would put into his pocket a couple of hard-boiled eggs, 
or a few crusts, which he would eat by the roadside, 
choosing for his meal a place where grass and water 
were available for his horse, free of cost. 

239 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

In London, we are told, he would get drenched to 
the skin rather than pay a shilling for a coach; and 
rather than spend a few pence on a fire, he would sit 
in his wet clothes until they were dry. Nothing would 
induce him to order a fresh joint from the butcher until 
the last putrid remnant of its predecessor was disposed 
of. He would pick up a wig from the gutter and wear 
it with satisfaction; and once, when his brown coat, 
which he had worn for twenty years, was too tattered 
for further wear, he chose, from an old family-chest, a 
full-dress green velvet coat, with slashed sleeves, in 
which he strutted about, as vain as a peacock, with the 
gutter- wig precariously perched on his white locks. 

Among Elwes' many possessions was a great 
number of houses in the West of London, which sup- 
plied him with an agreeable hobby, and at the same 
time with free quarters. When one of his houses 
was vacated he would move into it, with a couple of 
beds, two chairs, a table, and an old woman, who con- 
stituted his entire household. Here, attended by his 
aged domestic, he would live on his crusts and putrid 
meat, with the occasional luxury of a fire made from 
chips left by the carpenters or sticks picked up in the 
street, until the house found a new tenant, when he 
would migrate with his household goods and the old 
servitor to another house that was empty. 

On the rare occasions when he migrated to his seat 

240 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

at Stoke his miserly habits were quite as marked. If 
a window was broken, he would repair it with a piece 
of brown paper. He spent his days wandering in 
search of sticks and chips for his fire; and was one day 
found pulling down a crow's nest for the same purpose. 
During harvest-time he found his pleasure in gleaning 
the corn left in his tenants' fields. One day, it is said, 
he fared sumptuously on a moorhen which had been 
brought out of the river by a rat; another, on the un- 
digested part of a pike which had been swallowed by 
a larger one ! And yet the very week after eating the 
rat-provided game, he rose from a gaming-table in 
London the loser of three thousand pounds! 

About this time an amusing and characteristic story 
is told of him. One pitch-dark night, when returning 
to one of his empty houses in London, he ran so 
violently against the pole of a sedan-chair that both 
legs were seriously cut. In spite of his protests, a 
surgeon was summoned, and Elwes was aghast at the 
prospect of a bill. But even in this dilemma his 
ingenuity did not fail him. He saw a way of escape. 
" You know, doctor," he said, " I don't think my 
legs are much hurt. You say they are. Well, I will 
make this agreement. I will take one leg; you shall 
take the other. You shall do just what you please with 
yours; .1 will do nothing to mine. And I will wager 
the amount of your bill that my leg gets well before 

241 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

yours." The surgeon consented and lost his fee, 
for the untended leg won by a fortnight! 

A seat in Parliament was, one would think, the last 
luxury such a pastmaster of parsimony would allow 
himself, especially at a time when its cost was some- 
times counted in tens of thousands of pounds. But 
when Lord Craven offered to nominate Elwes for 
Berkshire, he consented on one condition, that his 
seat should cost him nothing. As a matter of fact, it 
left him just eighteenpence out of pocket the price 
of a dinner at Abingdon when, for once and with 
much grumbling, he was obliged to desert his diet of 
crusts or putrid pancakes. And for twelve years he 
represented the electors of Berkshire in three succes- 
sive Parliaments, without once adding a penny to the 
prime extravagance of eighteenpence. On the other 
side, his hand was always in his pocket to supply the 
financial needs of his brother M.P.'s, until he sorrow- 
fully said, " I have lost more money by lending at 
Westminster than three contested elections would have 
cost me." 

As a legislator Elwes was a model of all the virtues, 
staunchly true to his party and his conscience; and, 
although he never opened his lips in the House, was 
the most regular of all in his attendance. His loyalty 
to his party was so conspicuous that the wits of the 
Opposition declared " They had full as much reason 

242 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

as the Ministry to be satisfied with Mr. Elwes, as he 
never turned his coat." And he never did, although 
no coat was in such need of turning or replacement. 
Even his wig he finally discarded on the score of 
expense since no more were to be picked up in the 
street; for, said he, " it is cheaper to wear my own 
hair, which, like my expenses, is small." 

Mr. Elwes' parliamentary life narrowly escaped a 
tragic termination at one period. He had been 
missing for days, and his nephew, Colonel Timms, 
grew alarmed. A long and diligent search was made 
for him, and he was ultimately found in one of his 
empty houses, almost at his last gasp. When he was 
restored to consciousness, he explained that " an old 
woman who was in the house, for some reason or other, 
had not been near him; that she had herself been ill; 
but he supposed she had got well and gone away." 
The old woman, his migratory housekeeper, had not 
gone away, as was discovered later; she was found 
lifeless on an attic floor above the master she had 
served so well. 

When old age began to creep on the miser, strength 
and reason began to fail. He grew morose and sus- 
picious, and more greedy still of gold. To save 
candles he would retire to bed when the light failed; 
to save fire he would pace up and down his empty 
rooms to infuse a little cheap warmth into his bloodless 

243 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

body. He denied himself even the luxury of sheets; 
and, when he fell ill at his farm at Thaydon Hall, lay 
for days at the point of death without a solitary 
attendant. The summer of 1788 he spent in London, 
old and feeble as he was, superintending the repairs 
of some of his houses in Marylebone. At four o'clock 
every morning he would be on the spot, awaiting the 
arrival of the workmen, and giving them a sound rating 
if they were a minute late. The neighbours were 
amazed at such punctuality, and one of them remarked 
to the foreman, " I have never known such a punctual 
man as that old carpenter of yours." 

At times the old man would wander aimlessly 
through the streets, until he lost himself, and had to 
be conducted home by some errand-lad or stranger who 
took pity on him. These good Samaritans he would 
invariably dismiss on the doorstep with a courtly bow 
and a word of thanks. Never did he invite them 
inside, or offer a reward for their kindness. 

As his end drew near his miserliness developed into 
a mania. When his builder once called on him for a 
small advance, he reluctantly produced five guineas, 
and said, " Here is every penny I have; and how I 
shall go on with such a sum of money worries me to 
death. I daresay you thought I was rich now you 
see how poor I am! " He spent sleepless nights 
pacing up and down his bare room, crying out, " I will 

244 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

keep my money, I will; nobody shall rob me of it." 
On one occasion, after such a night, he went in great 
trepidation to his bankers, on whom he had given a 
draft for twenty pounds, to apologise for the liberty he 
had taken, as he had no funds to meet the draft. 
" Don't worry, Mr. Elwes," the official answered, 
soothingly, " we have a balance in our hands of some- 
thing over 14,000 to meet the draft." 

Towards the last his memory completely left him. 
Even his own relatives and friends he failed to 
recognise, and greeted with shrieks of alarm and 
cries of " You sha'n't have my money ! You are 
robbers! " For six weeks before his death he slept 
in his clothes; and one morning in November, 1789, 
he was found dead in bed, fully clothed for his last 
journey, with a stick in his hand, and an old dilapidated 
hat, which would have discredited a scarecrow, on his 
head. Of his vast wealth, which amounted to 
800,000, half-a-million was left equally to two 
natural sons, to whom he seems to have been devoted. 
The remainder, consisting of entailed estates, went to 
his nephew, Colonel Timms. 

Thus died, at the age of seventy-six, " that most 
puzzling of human paradoxes," John Elwes, the miser, 
of whom the kindest and truest judgment to pass is 
he was his own worst enemy. 



245 



CHAPTER XXV 

THE THREE GRACES 

WHEN pretty Mary Clement was cutting out patterns 
and stitching small clothes in tailor Rennie's shop in 
Pall Mall, in the days when the first of the Georges 
was King, she indulged, no doubt, in many a day- 
dream of the future that awaited her; but we may be 
sure that in her rosiest dreams she never pictured a 
time when a daughter of hers would be a Princess of 
the Blood Royal and a favourite sister-in-law of the 
King of England, and when her descendants should 
wear coronets as Duke and Earls. And yet Fate had 
all this in store for the low-born girl who plied her 
needle daily at the bidding of the Pall Mall tailor. 

For Fortune, though she had placed Mary Clement 
in one of the lowliest walks of life, had dowered her 
with a rare beauty of face and figure. So fair was she 
that many a gallant strolling down Pall Mall would 
linger for a peep at her charms through the tailor's 
window, and would lie in wait for her when, her day's 
work over, she walked to her poor home. But Mary 
Clement was as modest and chaste as she was lovely; 
and to one and all of these would-be lovers she turned 
a cold and contemptuous shoulder. 

There was one, however, to whom, in spite of her- 
246 




MARIA, COUNTESS OF WALDEGRAVE 

AFTERWARDS 

DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

self, she could not long be cold. In the room above 
the tailor's shop lived Edward Walpole, second son 
of the famous Prime Minister, a young man who had 
inherited much of his father's good looks and brains, 
and who, just returned from the grand tour, was lead- 
ing the life of a man of rank and fashion in town. On 
his way to his apartments this young gallant had 
caught many a glimpse of the beautiful seamstress, her 
dainty head, with its wealth of golden hair, bent indus- 
triously over her work, and had been rewarded by more 
than one upward glance from a pair of lovely blue eyes. 
And it is little wonder that a vision so fair and so 
unexpected made its impression on a heart that was 
not a little susceptible to female charms. 

A bow and a pleasant word in passing were followed 
by stolen interviews when the tailor was not on guard, 
and the spark of love was fanned into a flame which 
neither of the lovers sought or cared to quench. 
When news of these " carryings on " came to the ears 
of the tailor's wife, she was furious; and the climax 
came in a severe lecture administered to the seam- 
stress. " Such shameful goings on," Mrs. Rennie 
hotly declared, " could not be tolerated. No good 
could come to a poor girl who encouraged attentions 
from such a fine gentleman as Mr. Walpole; and she 
was not going to have her house disgraced in this way. 
Marys Clement must either give up her lover or leave 
the house." 



247 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

What could a poor girl do in such a crisis? She 
burst into a flood of tears, declared that she could not 
give up her lover, and forthwith ran up the stairs to his 
apartments and appealed to him for protection; an 
appeal to his chivalry which Edward Walpole was the 
last man to resist. With his strong arm supporting 
the weeping girl and her head pillowed on his breast, 
he vowed that he would never desert her; that, as long 
as he lived, he would be her protector and husband 
in all but in name. 

The next morning Mr. Rennie's shop opened, but 
Mary Clement was never again seen bending over her 
work, blind to the admiring glances of passing 
gallants, and listening for the footsteps on the stairs of 
the man she loved. For a few too brief years she was 
ideally happy with her high-placed lover and 
" husband." She bore him five children, of whom 
her two boys died in infancy, and was herself then laid 
to rest, mourned as deeply and as long by her lover 
as any wife was ever mourned by her husband. 

Edward Walpole had by this time become a Member 
of Parliament, on his way to higher honours. He was 
later dubbed a Knight of the Bath, and was made a 
Privy Councillor and Chief Secretary for Ireland. 
But, though still in the prime of life, one of the hand- 
somest and most accomplished men in England, who 
might have " picked and chosen " among the fairest 
women in the land, he remained true to the memory of 

248 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

his little seamstress, and found his chief pleasure in 
watching his three daughters grow daily in beauty and 
winsomeness. As children, their beauty and pretty 
ways captivated all hearts. Horace Walpole, their 
uncle, idolised his fair nieces, and his happiest 
moments were spent in romping with them in his house 
at Strawberry Hill. " These pretty nieces of mine/' 
he wrote, " make one feel quite a boy again. They 
are lovely as a dream and frolicsome as kittens; and 
what merry, mad pranks we play together! " 

As they grew up in all the pride of young woman- 
hood their beauty was the wonder of London. " I 
firmly believe," wrote one enthusiastic admirer, " that 
if the three Graces of the heathen world returned to 
earth, it is doubtful whether they would be more afraid 
of the fair Walpoles or of the fair Gunnings as rivals." 
The Gunning sisters had recently taken the London 
world of fashion by storm. Horace Walpole wrote of 
them as, " two Irish girls of no fortune, who make 
more noise than any of their predecessors since the 
days of Helen, and who are declared the handsomest 
women alive." But there were many, Horace Wal- 
pole among them, who vowed that not even the two 
Gunnings were as supremely lovely as Maria Walpole, 
whom a Royal duke declared to be " the loveliest 
woman in the whole world." 

But fair and fascinating as the three Walpole 
beauties were, and man of distinction as their father 

249 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

was, the exclusive circle of the Court was closed to 
them by the bar sinister of their birth. They were 
admired, feted, petted everywhere; but the most 
exalted circles of Society would not admit them within 
their pales. This exclusion, however, mattered little 
to the " three Graces," who enjoyed their life and con- 
quests to the full. Nor did it damp one whit the 
ardour of their well-born wooers. 

Laura, the eldest of the trio, was the first to wear a 
wedding-ring; and it was placed on her finger by an 
Earl's brother, the Hon. and Rev. Frederick Keppel, 
brother of Lord Albemarle. Of this union " Uncle 
Horace " wrote: " I have forgot to tell you of a 
wedding in our family. My brother's eldest daughter 
is to be married to-morrow to Lord Albemarle's 
brother, a Canon of Windsor. We are very happy 
with the match. The bride is very agreeable, sen- 
sible, and good, though not so handsome perhaps as 
her sisters. . . The second, Maria, is beauty 
itself. Her face, bloom, eyes, hair, teeth and person 
are all perfect. She has, too, a great deal of wit and 
vivacity, with perfect modesty." Laura was, in fact, 
the least beautiful of the three Walpoles; and her match 
was less brilliant than those of her sisters, although her 
husband lived to wear a Bishop's mitre, and to sit in 
the House of Lords; and, as the Hon. Mrs. Keppel, 
she was the first to " break her birth's invidious bar," 
and to find a place and a welcome in the circle of the 
Court. 

250 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Where Laura led the way Maria and Charlotte were 
not slow to follow. Indeed, both, had they wished, 
might have preceded her to the altar, for they were 
besieged by tempting offers of marriage. Each had 
her retinue of coronetted lovers and slaves; and, like 
the Gunnings, whenever they took their walks abroad 
or appeared in public, they were besieged by mobs, 
of both sexes, eager to catch a glimpse of the famous 
beauties. 

But both knew the power of their beauty, and were 
in no hurry to barter it for coronets. They could 
afford to " bide their time " and make a deliberate 
choice. Maria had more than one ducal coronet laid 
at her feet, but she would not stoop to pick it up. 
Among her many titled lovers, however, was one who 
would not accept " No." He was James, second 
Earl of Waldegrave, a man no longer quite young 
he was over forty but a man of distinction in more 
ways than one, of high character, and great intellectual 
attainments. He was Governor and Privy Purse to 
the Prince of Wales, a Privy Councillor, Knight of 
the Garter, and a Teller of the Exchequer. 

He was not dismayed by the knowledge that he had 
many younger and handsomer rivals, or by the cold- 
ness with which his advances were received. He was 
one of thosfe men who do not know the meaning of 
defeat,, and his persistence was at last rewarded by the 
capitulation of the fair fortress. 

251 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Thus it was that one day in 1759 Maria Walpole 
blossomed at the altar into my Lady Waldegrave. 
The daughter of the tailor's apprentice was entitled 
to wear the coronet of a Countess. Her happiness, 
however, was short-lived. For four years she was the 
happy wife of an adoring husband. Then the Earl 
was struck down with small-pox, and died, after an 
illness through which his wife nursed him with touch- 
ing devotion and an entire disregard of danger to her- 
self. 

It was long before the widowed Countess 
reappeared in Society; and then she emerged from her 
grief and retirement more lovely, if possible, than ever. 
Once more legions of admirers and would-be wooers 
swelled her train. She would have naught of any of 
them. Her life was wrapped up in the three daughters 
of her late lord, who already promised to be as fair as 
their mother. Each of these daughters, to anticipate, 
made an excellent match. One found a husband in 
her cousin, the fourth Earl of Waldegrave; another 
became Duchess of Graf ton; and a third of these 
grand-daughters of the Pall Mall seamstress married 
Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour, and became ancestress 
of the Marquises of Hertford. 

But, though she had vowed herself to widowhood, 
it was fated that Lady Waldegrave should again 
become a wife that she should make the most dazzling 
alliance possible to a lady not herself of Royal rank. 

252 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Among her many lovers, and the most abject and 
adoring slave of them all, was none other than Prince 
William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, brother of King 
George III. 

The Duke was but a boy of nineteen, and many 
years younger than the widow who had stolen his heart 
away; but he was no boy in the ardour of his passion 
for and pursuit of the lovely Countess. In vain the 
lady protested that he was too young, and that the 
union was in all ways undesirable. The Prince would 
take no denial, listen to no protest. He vowed that 
he would resign a crown gladly to make her his wife, 
and that, if she would not consent, he would throw 
away his life, as worthless without her. What, in face 
of such passion and pleading, could the widow do but 
consent ? And thus it came to pass that the daughter 
of the seamstress became the legal wife of the King's 
brother, a possible wearer of the Crown of England. 

The story of Maria Walpole's second wedded life 
is too long to tell in detail. King George was natur- 
ally furious at the match, and rated his brother soundly 
on his indiscretion. It was bad enough that his other 
brother, the rakish Duke of Cumberland, should have 
made a wife of Mrs. Horton, a merry widow of no good 
repute; but that the brother he loved so well, more 
than anyone else in the world, should have taken a wife 
without his knowledge, although that wife was a 
Countess of unimpeachable character, was intolerable. 

253 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

It was long before the angry King would consent 
to recognise the marriage; but when at last he yielded 
to his brother's pleadings and to the voice of love, his 
consent was as ungrudging as it had been reluctant. 
He admitted the low-born Duchess to the full rank 
and privileges of a Princess of the Blood; he showered 
smiles and favours on her; and, thus recognised as a 
member of the Royal Family, Maria Walpole's cup of 
pride and splendour was full to the brim. 

Her day of power, however, was not of very long 
duration. Her Royal husband proved to be as fickle 
as he had been passionate. Another charmer caught 
him in her toils, the Lady Almeria Carpenter; and the 
Duchess, realising that her place in her husband's 
affection was lost, refused to continue any claim to it. 
She left him, and spent the last years of her life in 
retirement and in works of charity, leaving hundreds 
of humble hearts the sadder for the loss of the " good 
Princess." To the Prince she bore two children a 
son, Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester, 
who married his cousin Princess Mary, daughter of 
King George III.; and a daughter, the Princess 
Sophia, who died unmarried in 1844. 

Of Charlotte, the youngest of the three Walpole 
Graces, the story is soon told. " I announce to you," 
wrote Horace Walpole, in October, 1760, " my Lady 
Huntingtower. I hope you will approve the match. 

254 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

I suppose my Lord Dysart will, as he does not know, 
though they have been married these two hours, that 
at ten o'clock this morning his son married my niece, 
Charlotte, at St. James's Church. And now, if you 
want to know the detail, there was none. Venit, 
vidit, vicit. The young lord has liked her for some 
time. On Saturday sen'night he came to my brother 
and made his demand. The Princess did not know him 
by sight, and did not dislike him when she did. She 
consented, and they were to be married this morning." 

" The young lord, it appears," Horace Walpole 
writes in another letter, " had been in love with Char- 
lotte for some months, but thought so little of inflaming 
her that yesterday sen'night she did not know him by 
sight. On that day he proposed himself as son-in-law 
to my brother, who, with much surprise, heard his 
story, but excused himself from giving an answer. 
He would send for Charlotte and know her mind. She 
was with her sister Maria, to whom she said very sen- 
sibly, ' If I were but nineteen I would refuse point- 
blank; for I don't like to be married in a week to a man 
I never saw. But I am twenty-two. It is dangerous 
to refuse so great a match/ ' 

And thus it was that the youngest daughter of the 
Pall Mall seamstress became the future Countess of 
a man- whom she had never seen until a week before 
she wore the orange-blossom. 

2 S5 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE IDOL OF A HERO 

A PROFUSION of auburn hair, which fell in a glorious 
cascade down to her very heels, a broad forehead, 
finely arched and pencilled eyebrows, blue eyes, whose 
shyness was strangly winning; a delicate aquiline nose, 
a short upper lip, a dainty mouth, already giving 
promise of the voluptuous charms it displays in 
Romney's canvases; a chin of incomparable shapeli- 
ness, good teeth, a complexion pure and bright as an 
angel's colour, an expression of seraphic sweetness, a 
head set like a piece of antique art on a long, fair neck; 
a figure tall and slight, and exquisitely perfect in its 
modelling. 

Such, at the zenith of her peerless loveliness, was 
the woman who, from her cottage cradle, grew to be 
an Ambassadress, bosom friend of a Queen, and 
enslaver of England's greatest hero. Probably never 
has a woman risen from such obscurity to such heights 
of sovereignty by virtue alone of her beauty. 

When Emma Lyon first opened her eyes on 
the world in which she was destined to play such a 
dramatic part it was in the cottage of a Cheshire black- 

256 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

smith, whose wife her mother was a maid-of-all- 
work until she wore her wedding-ring. We know 
nothing of Emma's sordid early years until, at thirteen, 
we find her acting as nursemaid to the children of a 
Hawarden doctor the first of several situations, the 
last of which was as general servant to a greengrocer 
in St. James's Market. 

It was here that her extraordinary beauty attracted 
the attention of a lady of fashion, who rescued her from 
domestic drudgery to become her companion. But 
the beauty, now fully conscious of her budding charms 
and the power they gave her, was not long content to 
be the shadow even of such a fashionable mistress. A 
Captain Payne cast amorous eyes on her, and at their 
bidding she changed her role of companion for that of 
mistress, a " situation " of which she soon wearied. 
We next see her earning her living by posing as 
Hygeia in the exhibition of a notorious quack doctor; 
and a little later she is installed in the country house 
of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, a dissolute Sussex 
Baronet, whose plaything she remained until, in a fit 
of temper, he turned her out of his door, to fare penni- 
less into the world, face to face with an early prospect 
of motherhood. 

These were terrible days for the Ambassadress-to- 
be. To all her pleadings the Baronet turned a deaf 
ear. She was haunted with the dread of starvation for 

2 57 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

herself and her child, until in her extremity she 
appealed for help to the Hon. Charles Greville, 
younger son of the Earl of Warwick, a man whom she 
had met under Sir Harry's roof, and with whom she 
seems, from the letter she wrote to him, to be already 
on intimate terms. " Good God," she wrote to him, 
" what shall I dow? I have wrote 7 letters and no 
answer. I have not a farthing to bless myself with. 

For God's sake, G , write the minet you get this, 

and only tell me what I am to dow. I am allmos 
mad." 

In response to this pathetic, if illiterate, appeal, 
Greville, who seems to have been a man of good heart, 
sent her money to bring her to London, and offered 
both herself and her mother a home with him an 
offer which was thankfully accepted. Thus we see 
Emma Hart (as she now called herself) and her 
mother, the ex-maid-of-all-work, comfortably, if 
modestly, installed in a small house, with a couple of 
maids, near Paddington Green, where for four years 
she led a happy life with her new protector. Greville, 
who was a Member of Parliament, and a man of con- 
siderable culture, spared no pains to cultivate the 
mind of his rustic protegee. He encouraged her to 
read poetry, provided her with masters for singing and 
the pianoforte, and generally surrounded her with the 
refinements of life. 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 



It was during these happy days that Romney fell 
under the spell of Emma's beauty his " divine 
lady," the great painter called her, " the most perfect 
woman in the world." He painted twenty-four por- 
traits of her, portraits of imperishable beauty and 
fame; and not only Romney, but Reynolds, Laurence, 
and Hoppner vied with each other in making her 
charms immortal on canvas. 

That the blacksmith's daughter was devoted to her 
protector there can be no doubt. Gratitude alone 
would have ensured this; and to gratitude was added 
a deep affection for her handsome and cultured lover. 
But Greville's constancy was not proof against the dis- 
illusioning of time; and when his uncle, Sir William 
Hamilton, our Ambassador at the Court of Naples, 
succumbed in turn to Emma's beauty, during a 
visit to his nephew, he welcomed the opportunity of 
escape. 

Under the pretext of monetary troubles which would 
compel him to give up housekeeping and to retire to 
Scotland to retrench, Emma, with many tears and 
pleadings to be allowed to remain with him, was 
induced to accept Hamilton's invitation for a six 
months' visit to Naples; and in April, 1786, we find 
her setting out rather fearfully for Italy, taking her 
mothejr with her, and cheered by Greville's promise to 
join her there as soon as he could settle his affairs, 

259 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

In Naples she was received with open arms by her 
new and middle-aged lover, who was more than thirty 
years her senior. He provided for her handsome 
apartments near the Embassy, a carriage, a boat, ser- 
vants in livery, beautiful dresses all the equipment 
of a great lady. But still she was far from happy. 
She had left her heart in Greville's keeping, and to 
him she writes thus pitifully: " I am sure to cry the 
moment I think of you. Therefore, my dear, dear 
Greville, if you do love me, for my sake try all you can 
to come here as soon as possible. ... I respect 
Sir William, and he loves me. But he can never be 
my lover. I belong to you, Greville, and to you 
only." In a later letter she writes, " For God's sake, 
write to me and come to me, for Sir William shall 
not be anything to me but your friend. . . What 
is to become of me? Give me only one guinea a week 
for everything and live with me, and I shall be con- 
tented." 

But Greville was in no mood to resume the respon- 
sibility he had transferred to his uncle. Emma 
realised at last that he was weary of her, and in her 
pride and indignation determined to plead no more, 
but " to make love to the lips that were nearest." 
Within a few months we find her writing to Sir 
William, " Ah, what a happy creature is your Emma! 
Me, that had no friend, no protector, nobody that I 

260 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

could trust; and now to be the friend, the Emma, of 
Sir William Hamilton! " 

In her new world the blacksmith's daughter was 
quick to assert the sovereignty of her beauty. The 
greatest artists of Italy craved permission to paint or 
model her charms. When she was entertained on an 
English man-of-war she was greeted with a salute of 
twenty guns; the people of Ischia prostrated themselves 
at her feet, a homage compelled by her likeness to the 
Blessed Virgin. The Duchess of Argyll, when on a 
visit to Naples, lost her heart completely to her, and 
took her under her wing; the King and Queen treated 
her as a Royal sister; and Goethe was among her most 
ardent worshippers, vowing that she was " a master- 
piece of the great artist Nature." Such was the 
admiration and homage she excited that Sir William 
Hamilton had no scruple in leading her to the altar 
one September day in 1791. The blacksmith's 
daughter was now an Ambassador's lady, and member 
of a ducal house! 

Lady Hamilton had worn her wedding-ring less 
than two years when Nelson, then captain of the 
Agamemnon, first set eyes on her, and at sight of her 
was undone. " The captain I am about to introduce 
to youV Sir William said, before the fateful meeting, 
" is a little man, and far from handsome, but he will 

261 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

live to be a great man. Let him be put into the room 
prepared for Prince Augustus." 

Over the stirring and romantic times that followed 
swiftly on this first meeting of the hero and his 
enchanter, culminating in the flight of the Royal 
family to Naples (in which, Lady Hamilton says, " I 
began the work myself, and removed all the jewels and 
thirty-six barrels of gold to our house; these I marked 
as ' stores for Nelson ' "), we must pass to that 
memorable trip to Malta, in which the " little sailor " 
and her ladyship were thrown into hourly companion- 
ship, and learned to love each other with a passion 
stronger than death itself. How deep this passion had 
already become on Lady Hamilton's part had been 
proved when Nelson arrived at Naples fresh from his 
victory on the Nile. At sight of her hero, with 
bandaged head, blind eye, and armless sleeve, we are 
told she exclaimed, " Oh, God, is it possible? " and 
fell swooning into her hero's one remaining arm. 

It was the voyage to Malta that sealed the incon- 
gruous passion between the mutilated Admiral and the 
wife of the Ambassador. What vows were exchanged 
on the blue waters of the Mediterranean we know not; 
but we know that thenceforth the two lovers were in- 
separable, and that Sir William, unsuspecting, 
remained loyal to both wife and friend to his last breath. 
Together the oddly-assorted trio travelled through 

262 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Europe, Nelson feted as an Emperor; and under the 
same roof they lived together either in London or at 
Merton Place, as members of one family even the 
birth of Horatia (Nelson's child, undoubtedly) 
awakening no misgiving in Hamilton's heart. 

And thus unsuspicious, Sir William died, describing 
his betrayer in his will as "my dearest friend, 'Lord 
Nelson, Duke of Bronte, the most virtuous, loyal, and 
truly brave character I ever met with. God bless him, 
and shame fall on those who do not say Amen." 

Thus released, Lady Hamilton was free to continue 
her liaison with the Admiral without even the modified 
precautions which her husband's presence made advis- 
able; and, curiously enough, this relationship seems to 
have met with no discouragement from Nelson's 
family, with which she was on affectionate terms. Now 
the chains which bound Nelson to her became stronger 
than ever, although her beauty had grown too coarse 
to appeal to aesthetic tastes. " Her figure," says 
Mrs. St. George (mother of the Archbishop Trench of 
later years), " is colossal, but, excepting her feet, 
which are hideous, well shaped. Her bones are large, 
and she is exceedingly embonpoint. I think her bold, 
daring, vain even to folly, and stamped with the 
manners of her first situation much more strongly than 
one would suppose, after having represented Majesty 
and lived in good company fifteen years." This is 

263 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

certainly not a flattering picture; but to Nelson she 
was still the one incomparably lovely woman for whose 
sake he was glad to be rid of his jealous and somewhat 
shrewish wife, and to risk his fair fame, and even his 
career. 

It was while dallying with his buxom charmer that 
the summons came to Trafalgar and glory, and 
(though he did not suspect it) to his death. And it 
was she who fought the weakness which would have 
kept him by her side. " Go," she said to him. 
" You will have a glorious victory; and then you may 
return and be happy." When, a few months later, 
Nelson lay dying in the cockpit of the Victory his last 
thought were all for her and his child. ' ' Remember, ' ' 
he gasped, in the last articulate words he spoke, 
" remember that I leave Lady Hamilton and my 
daughter Horatia as a legacy to my country." 

With the death of her " great and immortal hero," 
the curtain fell rapidly on Lady Hamilton's days of 
happiness. Although she had an income of not less 
than 2,000 a year, her fortune was quickly dissipated 
in wild gambling and extravagance. Within two 
years she was 8,000 in debt. She was arrested, and 
spent several months within the walls of the King's 
Bench Prison, whence she contrived to escape to Calais 
with her child, whose treatment of her was not the 
least of her many troubles. A year earlier she had 

264 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

written to Horatia, " Your conduct is so bad, your 
falsehoods so dreadful, your cruel treatment of me such 
that I cannot live under these afflicting circumstances. 
My heart is broken." 

After a final bitter struggle with starvation at Calais 
she died one January day in 1815, after addressing a 
pathetic appeal to the Prince Regent to care for her 
daughter. " I most earnestly recommend her on my 
knees," she wrote in that tragic hour, " blessing her 
and praying for her that she may be happy, virtuous, 
good, and amiable." 

A story has been told that a Mrs. Hunter " found 
Lady Hamilton living in Calais in the winter of 1814 
in absolute want; that she surreptitiously supplied her 
with food, and when she died, buried her in a deal 
box, with a pall made out of an old silk petticoat." 
This story, however, has been proved to be a fable; 
for it has since been discovered that she was decently 
buried, according to the rites of the Roman Catholic 
Church, at a cost of 28 ios., " which money was paid 
by a Mr. Caodgan." 



265 



CHAPTER XXVII 

A MAID OF MYSTERY 

WHO was Pamela that child of mystery and 
romance whose life-story adds to the annals of our 
Peerage one of its most fascinating and pathetic 
chapters ? 

When her childish laughter was first heard in the 
nursery of the Due de Chartres (later Due d'Orleans), 
and her fairy figure, with flushed face and flying curls, 
was seen racing along the corridors of the Palais 
Royal, no one in all the palace, from the stately 
Mistress of the Robes to the youngest scullion, 
seemed to know whence she came or who she was. 
Who was this little English fairy of the golden hair, 
the dancing blue eyes, and the merry laugh, who had 
come thus strangely into the Royal nursery to be the 
playmate of the Due's children ; where had she come 
from, and what was her history ? Such were the ques- 
tions that passed from mouth to mouth, in salon and 
boudoir and kitchen alike. 

There were many who whispered that she was the 
Due's own child. There could be little doubt about 
it; for was she not the exact image of her nursery 

266 




LORD EDWARD FITZGERALD 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

playmates? Others declared with equal certainty 
that her mother was none other than Mme. de Genlis, 
the Governess of the Orleans children, and a favourite 
of the Due, whom, it was said, she could " twist round 
her little finger." And if Madame's child, probably 
also the Due's; for how otherwise could she have 
found such a welcome in his palace? And so it was 
settled to the satisfaction of all that, whoever she was, 
she had no doubt every right to be where she was. 

Madame de Genlis, however, made no concealment 
about the matter. The child's presence in the palace 
had, she said, the simplest and most natural of ex- 
planations. She, as responsible for the Royal 
children's education, had decided that it would be well 
to introduce into the nursery a little English girl to 
share the studies and the games of her pupils, and 
this suggestion had the Due's cordial approval. 

With this object she had sent Mr. Forth one of 
the Due's valets, and himself an Englishman in 
quest of a suitable playfellow. After much search- 
ing, Mr. Forth had discovered in Hampshire the very 
child for the purpose in the five-year-old daughter of 
a poor widow, of whom she told the following story : 
A few years earlier, Mary Simms, a girl of humble 
birth, had become the wife of a Mr. Seymour, a gentle- 
man of good family, who had carried his pretty and 
low-born bride off to Newfoundland. Two years or 

267 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

so later Mr. Seymour had died, and his widow, who 
was left penniless, had returned with her baby-girl 
to her native land, where she found the utmost diffi- 
culty in supporting herself and her child by her 
needle and any kind of menial work she could pro- 
cure. 

Such was her situation when, one day in 1777, Mr. 
Forth made the widow's acquaintance, and, struck by 
the beauty and winsomeness of her little daughter, 
succeeded at last, by liberal offers of money, and by 
painting a glowing picture of the child's future in a 
Royal palace, in persuading the hopeless mother to 
part with her girl. To make the transfer more com- 
plete, Mrs. Seymour consented to give her daughter 
as " apprentice " to Madame de Genlis, until she came 
of age, and signed an agreement to this effect. 

Such was the plausible explanation vouchsafed by 
Madame to the sceptics of the presence of the new 
playmate in the Royal nursery an explanation which 
was received with smiles of incredulity, and, it is to be 
feared, only served to feed the flames of scandal. 
The more or less mythical " Nancy Simms " of the 
Hampstead village ceased to exist, and " Pamela " 
came to bring sunshine and laughter into the Palais 
Royal. 

And seldom, if we are to believe contemporary 
accounts, has a palace had so sweet and bright an in- 

268 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

mate as this English maid of doubtful history. She 
was such a creature as poets dream of a woodland 
sylph, graceful as a fawn, wild as an elf, lovely as 
Titania; a merry little sprite, brimming over with 
vitality and mischief, her blue eyes always a-dance 
with merriment, her golden curls tumbling riotously 
over her dainty little head, her pearly teeth always 
agleam between her rosy laughing lips. 

To resist the little witch was as impossible as to 
escape her impish tricks. And before she had been 
in the palace a month, everyone, from the Due down- 
wards, was her very slave, proud to share her romps 
and to win a kiss from her pouting lips. Even Mme. 
de Genlis, who affected to treat her new charge with 
indifference, was powerless to keep the child out of 
her heart. " I was passionately fond of her," she con- 
fessed in later years. " This charming child," she 
continues, " was the most idle I ever knew ; she had 
no memory, she was very wild, which even added to 
the grace of her figure, as it gave her an air of 
vivacity. This, joined to her natural indolence, and 
to a great deal of wit, made her very engaging. Her 
figure was fine and light; she was extremely hand- 
some; she flew like Atlanta." 

That Pamela was ideally happy in her new home 
goes without saying; that the adulation by which she 
was surrounded, from her playmates in the nursery 

269 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

to the great Court ladies, was powerless to spoil her 
nature, is much to her credit. As the happy years 
passed each added its touch of beauty and grace, until 
by the time she blossomed into young womanhood she 
was, by universal consent, the most beautiful and be- 
witching girl in the whole circle of the Court of 
France. Many a high-placed lover sought her hand 
the Due de Montpensier among the most ardent of 
them all but Pamela had no mind to exchange her 
freedom for any fetters, however golden. 

And thus she kept her heart untouched until 
" Prince Charming " came her way, in the guise of 
Lord Edward Fitzgerald, son of his Grace of 
Leinster the handsomest man, it is said, in all Ire- 
land ; a man, moreover, as brave and gifted as he was 
good-looking. Where and when the young people 
first set eyes on each other is not known with any 
certainty; but from that first meeting, sometime in 
1792, their fate was sealed. It was love at a glance; 
and love until death. 

In vain did Mme. de Genlis throw every possible 
difficulty in the way of the union. Where Pamela 
gave her heart, her hand must follow; and thus it 
came to pass that one December day she took her 
stand before the altar at Tournay with the man to 
whom she so gladly surrendered her heart and free- 
dom. 

270 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

A union so romantic could not fail to excite wide- 
spread interest, nor could it fail to revive the old 
speculations as to Pamela's origin. The marriage 
contract, which is still preserved in Tournay, recites 
the nuptials of " Edward FitzGerald, son of the late 
Duke of Leinster, and Stephanie Caroline Anne 
Simms, known by the name of Pamela, aged 19 years, 
daughter of William Berkley and of Marie Simms." 

If this was the description of herself given by the 
bride, we have a striking contradiction of the story of 
her birth as given by Mme. de Genlis, who, it will be 
remembered, declared she was the daughter of a Mr. 
Seymour. That this official statement was not gener- 
ally accepted is proved by the fact that the " Masonic 
Magazine " for 1793 announced the wedding of " the 
Hon. Lord Edward FitzGerald to Madame Pamela 
Capet, daughter of His Royal Highness the ci-devant 
Duke of Orleans "; and Moore, in his " Life of Lord 
Edward FitzGerald," says that " Pamela was the 
adopted, or, as it may be said without scruple, the 
actual daughter of Mme. de Genlis by the Due 
d'Orleans." Thus we see the mystery of Pamela's 
birth remains at her marriage as impenetrable as when 
she first appeared in the Palais Royal nursery. 

Pamela's marriage wrought a great change in her 
life from the splendours of a Royal Court to the 
frugal obscurity of " love in a cottage " with the hus- 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

band of her heart. But she would gladly have bar- 
tered much more than she had lost for such happiness 
as was hers for the next five years for the life which, 
she says, was " more like a beautiful dream than a 
reality." 

It is a picture of idyllically-beautiful wedded life 
that Lord Edward discloses in his letters to his 
Duchess-mother during this halcyon period, when he 
and his lovely wife made their home in various parts 
of Ireland, from Kildare to Blackrock, near Dublin. 
Their home, at Mr. Conolly's Lodge in Kildare, Lord 
Edward describes as " a little Paradise. ... It has 
all the things that make beauty to me. My dear wife 
dotes on it and becomes it." 

At Blackrock the life was equally ideal " a living 
poem " ; and charming are the pictures he draws of 
their simple doings " Pamela busy in her little 
American jacket, planting sweet peas and mignonette, 
while I write to my dearest mother. . . . We came 
last night, got up to a delightful spring day, and am 
enjoying the little book-room with the windows open, 
hearing the little birds sing, and the place looking 
beautiful. Pamela has dressed four beautiful flower- 
pots; upon the two little stands there are six pots of 
fine auriculas, and I am sitting in the bay-window, with 
all those pleasant feelings which the fine weather, 
the pretty place, the singing birds, the pretty wife and 

272 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Frescati give me. Her table and work-box, with the 
little one's cap, are on the table. . . ." 

Such are glimpses of the sweet Arcadian life of our 
two lovers when, " the world forgetting, by the world 
forgot," they lived but for each other and the little 
one who came to crown their happiness and to fill 
their cup of bliss to overflowing. Pity that these 
sunny days could not last to the end. But there was 
a restless strain in Fitzgerald's blood which even his 
passion for his wife and child and the home sanctuary 
could not keep in subjection, and which was to prove 
his undoing. 

The stirrings of political discontent lured him away 
from the peace of his home and the sweet comrade- 
ship of his wife to the meetings of the Society of 
United Irishmen. He was tempted to take a leading 
part in a scheme for a French invasion of Ireland; 
and when the bubble burst, and his life was in danger, 
he had to seek safety in flight. 

Over the heartrending sequel to this fatal folly, 
which brought the edifice of his happiness tumbling 
about his and his wife's ears, we must pass briefly. 
For a time, he found a safe asylum in Dublin, whither 
his devoted wife followed him, finding a lodging for 
herself and child near Merrion-square ; and thither 
FitzGerald would often steal, under the friendly 
cover of the darkness, to spend an hour with the 

273 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

woman whom he loved more than life itself, and to 
mingle his tears with hers over the cradle of their 
sleeping infant. Even the anguish and terror of 
these stolen meetings could not rob them of their 
sweetness. 

But these fearful joys could not last long, with the 
bloodhounds so keen on the " traitor's " track. 
FitzGerald's hiding place was at last discovered ; and 
one night the door of his room was burst open to let 
in a posse of soldiers, resolute at any cost to secure 
him. But FitzGerald was not the man to be easily 
captured, even with such fearful odds against him. 
With his back to the wall, and dagger in hand, he 
fought with the courage of despair. One after 
another his would-be captors fell before the deadly 
thrust of his dagger. But the odds were too great. 
He was overwhelmed, flung down, and secured, and, 
with the blood ebbing from half-a-dozen wounds, was 
carried off to the Castle. When he was asked by the 
Lord- Lieutenant if he had any message to send to his 
wife, he gasped, " Nothing, nothing ! But, oh, break 
this tenderly to her." 

On learning her husband's fate Pamela's anguish 
was heartrending. She begged piteously to be 
allowed to share his prison and to nurse him. She 
sold all her little possessions, even the rings from her 
fingers, and offered her last penny as a bribe to his 

274 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

gaolers. But all in vain. She was not even per- 
mitted to see the man for whom she would so gladly 
have laid down her life. The crowning blows fell 
when she was peremptorily ordered to leave Ireland, 
and when, a week or so later, news came that her 
husband had died from his wound. 

" Her agonies of grief," says the Duke of Rich- 
mond, who broke the news to her, " were very great, 
and violent hysterics soon came on. But by degrees 
she grew more calm at times; and although she has 
had little sleep and less food, and still has nervous 
spasms, yet I hope and trust her health is not materi- 
ally affected." 

The latter years of Pamela's life were as clouded 
with sorrow and tragedy as her early years had been 
full of sunshine. After a time spent under the hos- 
pitable roof of the Duke of Richmond, she made her 
home in Hamburg, where her lonely and destitute 
condition led her to the altar a second time with a 
wealthy banker called Pitcairn. But this union, 
against which heart and body alike rebelled, proved 
one long misery ; and not many years later we find the 
unhappy woman living obscurely at Toulouse, where 
she spent the last eleven years of her life. 

Here she seems to have found some solace in her 
loneliness and sorrow in acts of kindness and charity 
(such charity as her poor purse could provide) to her 

275 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

humble neighbours. " Her name," says Madame 
Ducrest, a niece of Madame de Genlis, " will ever be 
remembered gratefully in the cottages of the poor. 
People of fashion will remember, perhaps, the fascin- 
ation of the beautiful Lady FitzGerald ; the poor will 
never forget the kind and generous acts of Pamela." 
Eighty years have gone since the heroine of this 
strange story closed her weary eyes on a world which 
had given her so much joy and so much unmerited 
sorrow; and for eighty years she has been sleeping 
her last sleep at Montmartre under a modest tomb- 
stone, which bears but one word as inscrutable to- 
day as when its owner made the Palais Royal ring 
with her childish laughter, and when her golden curls 
were seen flying along the palace corridors the word 

PAMELA. 



276 




MRS. FITZHERBERT 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

AN UNCROWNED QUEEN 

" DEBAUCHEE, dissolute, heartless, fickle, cowardly " 
the fourth of our Royal Georges no doubt well 
merited every one of the scathing adjectives 
Thackeray heaps on his memory. He was all this 
and more ; his vanity was monstrous, he was weak and 
treacherous to the last incredible degree. But he 
was none the less " the first gentleman in Europe," a 
man of handsome exterior, of courtly graces, and, 
when he wished, of infinite personal charm. He was 
a pastmaster of all the arts of gallantry ; and, though 
he blighted the life of every woman who caught his 
wayward fancy, there were few who could resist the 
battery of his fascinations. 

Among the many victims of this Royal libertine 
none commands our respect and sympathy more than 
Mrs. Fitzherbert, the " new constellation " that made 
an appearance in the fashionable hemisphere in the 
summer of 1784; and drew to herself as satellites 
" half of our young nobility." 

Who was the woman who thus took London by 
storm and enslaved all hearts? Mrs. Fitzherbert was 

277 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

no debutante, fresh from the schoolroom, and bring- 
ing with her the first bloom of a radiant youthful 
beauty. She had already worn the bridal veil for 
two husbands, and had also worn widow's weeds for 
both. The granddaughter of Sir John Smythe, a 
Durham Baronet of long and noble lineage, she was 
barely nineteen when she wore the orange-blossom 
for Mr. Edward Weld, a Dorsetshire squire, who 
left her widowed in the same year that saw her a 
bride. 

Three years later the wedding-bells rang for her 
again, and this time she was led to the altar by 
Thomas Fitzherbert, Esq., a man of many acres and 
a long purse, who had been cradled before her own 
father. For three years she was a wife for the second 
time, before death set her free once more a double 
widow with a jointure of ,2,000 a year, and still only 
five years advanced in her twenties. 

After this second bereavement Mrs. Fitzherbert 
spent three years in retirement on the Continent, 
weary of wedded life and its uncertainties, and vow- 
ing she would never barter her freedom again for 
any man, however charming. But youth stirred in her 
veins. Her mirror told her that she was more lovely 
than when she first left her father's roof to become a 
bride; and though she had forsworn marriage, there 
was no reason why she should deny herself the 

278 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

pleasures of life which her liberty and purse made 
not only available, but very seductive to her. 

Thus it was that one day, in 1784, she crossed the 
Channel, leaving her weeds and sorrows behind her, 
and startled London by a vision of beauty such as 
had not feasted its eyes since the days of the Gunnings 
and the Walpole " Graces." One has only to look at 
her picture to understand the sensation which greeted 
the rising of this new beauty in the firmament of 
fashion. It would require a pen more skilful than 
that of the writer to do justice to such charms as even 
her painted portraits present the wealth of golden 
hair, in whose dainty curls and tendrils the sun's rays 
seem imprisoned ; the liquid blue of the eyes ; the com- 
plexion of " wild rose and hawthorn " ; the perfect 
oval of the face; the exquisite sweetness of 
the lips with the colour and fragrance of a red- 
rose leaf; the dainty poise of the head, and a 
figure, every soft, rounded line of which is instinct with 
grace. 

Such, in cold print, was Mrs. Fitzherbert when, in 
the summer of 1784, she took the air on Richmond 
Hill, or made her dazzling appearance in Lady 
Sef ton's box at the Opera ; and it was not long before 
" Florizel," ever eager for new conquests, set covetous 
eyes^on the lovely widow. Where or when His Royal 
Highness Lothario first saw her is a matter of dispute; 

279 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

but we know that before she had been many weeks in 
England he had not only made her acquaintance, but 
was the most abject of all the slaves who prostrated 
themselves at her feet. 

That she seemed as indifferent to his fascinations 
and his wooing as she was unimpressed by his exalted 
station only served to fan the flames of his passion. 
To have his homage spurned was indeed a novel ex- 
perience for Royal George. Had she been com- 
plaisant, an easy prey, she would certainly have fared 
no better than many another fair flower in the garden 
of women whom his passion had blasted and left to 
ruin and shame. But Mrs. Fitzherbert was no woman 
to be wooed in such fashion, and she quickly let him 
know that his pursuit was unwelcome, even if it led to 
the altar. " There are," she told him (though none 
better knew that it was false), " hundreds of women 
prettier than myself. Take your love to them. I 
ask nothing of you but to be let alone." Daring 
words to speak to the heir to a throne. But what 
cared she? She was free as the air to do and speak 
as she chose ; and she wanted no lover, however ardent 
and exalted. 

When he vowed that he would take his life if she 
would not listen to his suit she only laughed in his 
face, and told him not to be " a silly boy." There 
was no weapon in all his armoury which could pene- 

280 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

trate her indifference; her contemptuousness drove 
him to distraction. 

One day, as Lord Stourton tells us, Lords Onslow 
and Southampton and others of the Prince's house- 
hold came to Mrs. Fitzherbert's house in a state of 
great consternation. The Prince, they told her, had 
stabbed himself; his life was in grave danger, and 
only her immediate presence could save it. For a 
long time she refused point-blank to go to him ; and it 
was only after long and almost piteous pleading that 
she at last consented; and, with the Duchess of 
Devonshire as chaperon, was driven swiftly to Carlton 
House. There she found the Prince, lying pale and 
covered with blood, and to all appearance in extremis 
a pathetic spectacle which moved her far more than 
all his vows and tears. So deeply affected was she 
that, when the Prince, in feeble tones, vowed that he 
would not live unless she allowed him to place a 
wedding-ring at once on her finger, she consented; 
and thus, in her grief, alarm, and sympathy, she suf- 
fered a ring of the Duchess to be placed by the appar- 
ently dying man on her hand. 

Before the next morning dawned, however, reaction 
and disillusion came. She was convinced that she 
had been lured into this pledge by a despicable trick ; 
and so strong was her resentment at the conspiracy 
which had wrung from her a consent which she would 

281 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

not have given under any other conditions, that she 
fled to the Continent to find a refuge from such heart- 
less persecution. 

When the Prince heard of her flight he was dis- 
tracted with rage and despair. He raved like a mad- 
man, tore his hair, and flung himself on the floor, 
shrieking that he would follow her to the ends of the 
earth; and that, even at the cost of his throne, he 
would make her marry him. When his father, the 
King, refused to allow him to leave England on any 
pretext, he pursued the fugitive with letters " full of 
passionate pleadings, of heartrending appeals," and 
of threats of suicide if she would not return and con- 
sent to become his wife. 

Was ever woman so assailed, or placed in such a 
predicament? Surely, few could long remain 
obdurate to such lava-hot passion, and to such heart- 
rending appeals. And perhaps it is little wonder 
that Mrs. Fitzherbert at last began to show signs of 
yielding; or that, by degrees, she was induced, first, 
to promise that " she would never marry any other 
man," and, finally, that she would give her hand to 
save the life of such a desperate wooer. 

Thus, one December day in 1785, the widow and 
" Florizel " were plighting their vows in her London 
drawing-room, with her uncle and brother as witnesses 
to the secret nuptials, and one of the Prince's gentle- 

282 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

men keeping guard at the door. The Prince had 
won at last, and Mrs. Fitzherbert was his wife, "in 
the eyes of Heaven." 

For more than a year all went fairly well. 
" Florizel " surrounded his beautiful bride with 
luxury and a semi-royal state, and lavished a more or 
less spasmodic affection on her; but he was far too 
great a coward to acknowledge to the world as his 
wife the woman who had sacrificed herself to his pas- 
sion; nor would he utter a word to silence the voice 
of scandal that sought to sully her fair name. 

More cowardly than his silence was his denial that 
she was his wife. When, in his financial straits, it be- 
came once more necessary to wheedle Parliament into 
paying his debts and increasing his allowance, his 
baseness reached the depth of asking his friend Fox 
to give a flat denial in the House of Commons to the 
report of his marriage. And this Fox did, to the ex- 
tent of declaring that the rumour was " a monstrous 
invention, a low, malicious falsehood." And yet, 
such was " Florizel's " incredible treachery that, the 
very next day, he went up to Mrs. Fitzherbert, and, 
taking hold of both of her hands and caressing her, 
said, " Only conceive, Maria, what Fox did yesterday. 
He went down to the House and denied that you and 
I were man and wife. Did you ever hear of such a 
thing?" Mrs. Fitzherbert, we are told, "made no 

283 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

reply; but changed countenance and turned pale." 
Thus did this Royal Judas lie to friend and wife 
thus did he betray both. 

But so long-suffering was Mrs. Fitzherbert that she 
remained true to the Prince, in spite of his many infi- 
delities (for even her first year of wedded life was 
varied by scandalous amours) and the cruelty with 
which he sandwiched his affection. So afraid was she 
of him that many a time, " when she heard the Prince 
and his drunken companions on the staircase, she 
would seek a refuge from their presence under the 
sofa, when the Prince, finding the drawing-room de- 
serted, would draw his sword in joke, and, searching 
about the room, would at last draw forth the trembling 
victim from her place of concealment." 

Her solace was that, however brutal and unfaithful 
her husband might be, she was respected and kindly 
treated by every other member of the Royal Family, 
including the King and Queen, whose tenderness and 
affection were very grateful to her. Her position as 
wife to the heir to the throne was, indeed, so far 
recognised that a Duchess's coronet was offered to 
her only, however, to be declined. 

When George's growing debts at last drove him to 
his ill-starred marriage with Caroline of Brunswick 
a ceremony at which the bridegroom " was so drunk 
that the Duke of Bedford could scarcely support him 

284 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

from falling " Mrs. Fitzherbert once more recovered 
her freedom for a time, until the Prince begged her 
to return to him; an appeal which, strangely enough, 
was supported by many members of his family. But 
it was only after the Pope had sanctioned the re-union 
that she consented to live with him again as his wife. 

Then followed eight years, which she always de- 
clared were the happiest of her connection with the 
Prince years in which " Florizel " seems to have 
made a real effort to treat her with loyalty and affec- 
tion. But it was not in his nature to be constant to 
any woman; and it speaks volumes for Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert's power of fascination that she kept him so 
long by her side. When Lady Hertford crossed his 
path, a woman as designing as she was beautiful, the 
Prince's fickle heart flew to her, and his growing cold- 
ness convinced his wife that he was finally lost to her 

The climax came one June day in 1811, at a dinner 
given to Louis XVIII. When Mrs. Fitzherbert 
asked the Prince where she was to sit, his frigid 
answer was, " You know, madam, you have no place." 
" None, sir/' was the dignified answer, " but such as 
you choose to give me." 

After such a rebuff, following on months of neglect 
Mrs. Fitzherbert decided to live no more with her 
husband. She retired to Brighton, where for twenty- 
six years she led a life of retirement, winning the love 

285 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

of all who knew her by her charm and her goodness 
of heart, and almost worshipped by the poor, to whom 
she was an unfailing friend and sympathiser, as well 
as a Lady Bountiful. 

The Hon. Grantley Berkeley, who knew her well in 
her latter years, says, " I remember her well, her deli- 
cately fair, yet commanding, features and gentle de- 
meanour. That exquisite complexion she main- 
tained, almost unimpaired by time, up to the arrival 
of old age ; and her manner, unaffected by years, was 
equally well preserved." 

Seven years before this " uncrowned Queen " was 
laid to rest in the old Catholic church at Brighton, her 
husband, who, as George IV., had worn his crown for 
ten years, was gathered to his fathers. By his own 
wish he was laid to rest " with the picture of my be- 
loved wife, Maria Fitzherbert, suspended round my 
neck with a ribbon, as I used to wear it when I lived, 
and placed right upon my heart." And when he lay 
in death in Windsor Castle, the Duke of Wellington 
" discovered round his neck a very dirty and much- 
worn piece of black ribbon," to which was attached a 
jewelled miniature of the woman who, in spite of his 
falseness to her, was probably the only woman who 
had ever found a permanent place in his fickle heart. 



286 




LORD GEORGE BENTINCK 



CHAPTER XXIX 

A METEOR OF THE TURF 

THERE are probaby few who to-day recall the 
splendours of Lord George Bentinck, whose brilliant 
and too brief life closed in tragedy two generations 
ago; although for more than twenty years, when the 
last century was young, he was beyond question the 
brightest star in the social and sporting firmaments of 
England. 

The chronicles of his time are full of glowing 
tributes to " Lord George," as he was affectionately 
known. " He was," said John Kent, one of his 
veriest slaves, " the beau ideal of an English noble- 
man. He stood over six feet in height; his figure 
was, beyond that of any other man of my acquaint- 
ance, stately and elegant; his features were naturally 
handsome and refined ; his hands and feet small, and 
beautifully shaped; and his whole appearance most 
commanding." 

" Sylvanus " wrote enthusiastically of him in the 
" Gentleman's Magazine " as "a tall, high-bred man, 
with an air particularly his own, so distinguished, yet 
so essentially of the country, did he seem even 

287 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

amongst the galaxy of patrician sportsmen with whom 
he was congregated. He had all the eye and com- 
plexion of the pure Saxon, and the indescribable air 
noble to perfection." 

Such was the physical equipment of this young 
nobleman, of whom his contemporaries spoke with 
bated breath as " a superior being," " a god-like man, 
a king of men " ; and who flashed meteor-like across 
the sky, to be merged suddenly and tragically in dark- 
ness. 

One looks in vain in these drab days for a per- 
sonality so picturesque and so commanding. Picture 
Lord George in all the glory of buckskin breeches, 
exquisitely-made top-boots, buff waistcoat of reddish- 
brown, green cut-away coat ornamented with buttons 
of the Jockey Club, his beaver-hat poised at the 
modish angle on his handsome head of auburn hair, 
and we get a fair presentment of this noble " idol " 
of three quarters of a century ago as he rode on to a 
racecourse, the observed of a hundred thousand eyes 
as seemingly unconscious of the admiration he ex- 
cited as he was indifferent to homage which a King 
might have envied. 

Such, then, was Lord William George Frederick 
Cavendish Bentinck, who was cradled at Welbeck 
three years before the cannon thundered at Trafalgar. 
A son of the ducal house of Portland, he was born to 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a splendid heritage; although, as a younger son, the 
strawberry-leafed coronet and the ancestral acres 
were not for him. A passion for the Turf was in his 
blood; for his father, the Duke of Portland, was one 
of the keenest of sportsmen, who lived to see his horse 
Tiresias win the Derby, in the very year in which his 
son, George, first wore his uniform as cornet in the 
loth Hussars. 

Lord George's career as a soldier the handsomest 
officer in King George's army, he was acclaimed 
was destined to be brief. He was not the man, wil- 
ful and high-spirited as he was, to submit tamely to 
discipline; and it was not long before a quarrel with 
a superior officer, a Captain Kerr, brought matters to 
a climax. " If you don't make this young gentleman 
behave himself, Colonel, I will !" the Captain hotly 
exclaimed one day on parade; whereupon the insub- 
ordinate " sub " retorted, " Captain Kerr ventures to 
say on parade that which he dare not say off'' 

When, however, the Captain sent Bentinck a chal- 
lenge, it was promptly and firmly declined, to the 
amazement of his brother officers. The young 
lieutenant was branded " coward " ; but he smiled in- 
differently at the taunt as indeed he could afford to 
smile, for on later occasions he proved to the world 
that he had courage enough and to spare. Notably 
when he fought his famous duel with Squire Osbaldes- 

289 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

ton over a Turf quarrel. The Squire was the dead- 
liest shot in England, a man who could bring down 
a swallow on the wing with a pistol-ball. Bentinck 
had never had a pistol in his hand before the day of 
the duel; but he faced his man with a smile; and, 
while he himself fired in the air, had the good luck to 
escape with a ball through his hat. 

Fortunately a way of escape from the awkward pre- 
dicament his refusal to fight Captain Kerr had brought 
about was found in the appointment of Mr. Canning, 
his uncle, as Governor-General of India. Bentinck 
was chosen to accompany him as secretary, an office 
which he later filled when Canning became Foreign 
Secretary and leader of the Commons. Thus the 
young nobleman drifted by slow degrees from arms 
to a political life, and incidentally to the Turf, in both 
of which fields his peculiar gifts found a congenial and 
ample scope. 

In a short time we find him representing Lynn in 
Parliament, building up a reputation as a statesman, 
and devoting his leisure to his beloved horses. On 
the Turf his career was brilliant from the very first. 
He was a born horseman, and rode many of his own 
horses to victory. In 1833 he started a racing-stud 
under John Day's management; and his colours, the 
sky-blue and white cap, were soon seen in the first 
flight on every great racecourse in England. One by 

290 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

one the great prizes fell to him the St. Leger, the 
Two Thousand, the Ascot Cup. Within seven years 
he had as many as sixty horses in training; while his 
racing-stud numbered a round hundred. 

In one year his training bill alone came to ; 7,000; 
travelling expenses to 3,600; and forfeits to 
,23,000. His out-of-pocket expenses in that year 
reached ,50,000; but he won double this sum in 
stakes and wagers; so that he put ; 50,000 in his 
pocket as the result of one year's racing. 

No man not even Lord Glasgow or the Marquis 
of Hastings ever plunged so regally on the Turf. 
His daring and colossal wagers were the despair and 
wonder of all rivals ; and so admirable was the judg- 
ment that inspired them that he seldom made a heavy 
loss. He stood, for instance, to win 150,000 on his 
horse Gaper for the Derby of 1843; but, although 
Gaper could not even get a place, so skilfully was his 
owner's book made that he had ,30,000 to draw on 
settling day. Crucifix alone won ,60,000 for him 
among his many victories being the Two Thousand 
Guineas, the One Thousand, and the Oaks. But the 
one great triumph on which he had set his heart, the 
Derby the crown and goal of his ambition always 
eluded him, and made all his other triumphs but 
" vanity and vexation of spirit." 

So keenly, as the years passed and this golden 

291 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

guerdon eluded him, did he feel the cruelty of Fate 
that, in despair, he determined to abandon the Turf. 
One day in 1846 the world of sport was astounded to 
hear that Lord George had sold his entire stud " for 
a song " ; and that the Turf would know him no more. 

It was on the Goodwood course that he walked up 
to George Payne, and said, " The lot, Payne, from 
Bay Middleton to little Kitchener (his jockey) for 
' 10,000? Yes or no?" " I will give you ^300 to 
have till breakfast-time to-morrow to consider the 
offer," Payne answered. At breakfast on the follow- 
ing morning Payne handed Bentinck a cheque for 
^300, which the latter was placidly pocketing, when 
Mr. Mostyn, who was sitting at the lower end of the 
table, glanced up from the letters he was reading, and 
quietly said, " I'll take the lot, Bentinck, at ,10,000." 
" If you please," Lord George replied, equally 
calmly, and the bargain was concluded. 

Thus dramatically Lord George's career as owner 
of racehorses came to an end. But mark the irony of 
fate. Among the horses thus parted with " at a 
word" was Surplice, which two years later captured 
both the Derby and the St. Leger. The crowning 
guerdon of Bentinck's life was actually in his own 
hand, and he had flung it away in a moment of dis- 
gust and pique. Was ever Fortune more cruel than 
to this " spoiled child " of hers ? 

292 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Beyond a doubt this dastardly blow of Fate broke 
Lord George's heart. How crushing it was Lord 
Beaconsfield reveals to us. On the day following 
the Derby of 1848, which Surplice had so gallantly 
won, the great statesman met Lord George Bentinck 
in the library of the House of Commons. " He was 
standing," Beaconsfield says, " before the book- 
shelves, with a volume in his hand, and his counten- 
ance was greatly disturbed. His horse, Surplice, 
whom he had parted with among the rest of his stud 
that he might pursue without distraction his political 
labours, had won that paramount and Olympic stake 
to gain which had been the object of his life. He 
had nothing to console him, and nothing to sustain 
him, except his pride. Even that deserted him before 
a heart which he knew at least could yield him sym- 
pathy. He gave a sort of superb groan. 

" ' All my life I have been trying for this, and for 
what have I sacrificed it?' he murmured. 

" It was in vain to offer solace. 

" * You do not know what the Derby is/ he moaned 
out. 

"'Yes, I do; it is the Blue Riband of the 
Turf.' 

" ' It is the Blue Riband of the Turf/ he slowly 
repeated to himself; and, sitting down at a table, 
buried himself in a folio of statistics." 

293 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

A few months later, one September night in 1848, 
Lord George was found dead in a remote corner of 
the park of Welbeck Abbey, the home of his boyhood. 
On the morning of that fatal day he had risen full of 
health, in the very prime of his physical strength, and, 
after spending a few hours in his study, had started 
to walk to Lord Manvers' house, six miles away, where 
he was to spend a couple of days. He had sent his 
valet in advance by the road, intending himself to 
follow across country; but he never reached his 
destination. 

When the darkness fell, and he had not yet arrived, 
a small army of servants with lanterns was sent in 
search of him ; and they found him, lying outstretched, 
face downwards, cold and stiff at the foot of a gate on 
the fringe of the deer-park. He had covered a mile 
of his journey when death overtook him, and with a 
coward's blow struck him down in the prime of his 
days. Thus, in tragedy and loneliness, closed one of 
the most brilliant lives that ever adorned the Turf or 
won the homage and the love of men. 

The news of this tragedy in a lonely glade of the 
Welbeck deer-park was received throughout England 
with horror and incredulity. It seemed so impos- 
sible an outrage, no less that a life so splendid 
and full of promise should thus be cut off in the plenti- 
tude of its powers. The bucolic jury gave as its ver- 

294 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

diet, " Died by the visitation of God : to wit, a spasm 
of the heart." That it was a visitation of God as 
every death must of necessity be could not be gain- 
said; that Lord George's heart may have been weak 
or diseased, though none had heard of it, was possible. 
But was this the true explanation of the tragedy 
might it not be the result of a crime ? Such were the 
thoughts that set many a tongue wagging. There 
was, however, no sign of violence no evidence of 
any other hand than that of God. 

It was no doubt these misgivings that gave rise to a 
story widely accepted at the time, although, no doubt 
rightly, discredited now. It was more than hinted 
that Lord George did not die a natural death that a 
human hand, in fact, was responsible for his mysteri- 
ous end, and that hand was the hand of his elder 
brother, the Marquis of Titchfield, known in later 
years as " the mad Duke of Portland," the " Wizard 
of Welbeck." 

Thus the story ran. Lord George and his brother, 
the Marquis, had long been rivals for the favour of a 
lovely and penniless girl, Annie May Berkeley, whose 
birth was as romantic as her beauty was great. She 
was, it is said, the daughter of Frederick Augustus, 
fifth Earl of Berkeley, by Mary Cole, daughter of a 
Gloucester butcher, whom in later years, after Mary's 
birth, he made his Countess. Thus, through her 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

father, Annie May Berkeley could claim a noble 
birth, though it was marred by the bar sinister. 

The rivalry of the brothers for the sole possession 
of Miss Berkeley's charms had led, as such rivalries 
naturally will do, to many a quarrel, in which heated 
words, and even blows, had been exchanged. It had 
led not merely to estrangement, but to a mutual 
hatred. Assuming such premises, it was no difficult 
matter to evolve a tragedy from them. While stroll- 
ing across the deer-park on his way to Thoresby, Lord 
Manvers* seat, Lord George, according to the story, 
chanced to meet his brother and rival. Angry words 
were followed by blows; a heavy blow struck by the 
Marquis landed on his brother's chest, over the heart, 
which was diseased, and proved fatal. 

Such is the story which, sixty years and more ago, 
was widely circulated and believed. That it owed its 
origin to a too vivid and fertile imagination seems 
more than probable. But, if true by any chance, it 
would certainly solve two problems which otherwise 
must ever remain without satisfactory solution why 
Lord George Bentinck perished thus mysteriously in 
the full vigour of a particularly robust manhood ; and 
why his brother, the Marquis, developed so soon after- 
wards that moroseness and misanthropy and those 
eccentricities which earned for him the designation, 
" the mad Duke of Portland." 



CHAPTER XXX 

AT THE SIGN OF THE " RED SHIELD " 

ANYONE who chanced to walk through the Judengasse 
in Frankfort about the middle of the eighteenth century 
might have seen a dark-eyed, sallow-faced boy, with 
his satchel of books on his back, hurrying home from 
school; but he would scarcely have given a second 
glance at this Jewish bantling who differed in no way, 
except perhaps in the brilliance of his eyes and the 
keenness and determination of his little face, from the 
hundreds of other children who swarmed in the dark, 
evil-smelling rookery. In this narrow street of tower- 
ing, grimy buildings, into which the sunlight rarely 
found its way, were herded the despised and persecuted 
Jews of Frankfort. Each wore the badge which 
marked his cursed caste; and at nightfall heavy chains 
were drawn across each end of the foetid lane, beyond 
which none might pass, under penalty of death, until 
the dawn of another day came. 

It was in one of these human rookeries, before which 
swung a " red shield " for sign, that Meyer Amschel 
Rothschild, the dark-eyed schoolboy, was cradled one 
day^in the year 1743; the son of a poor dealer in odd- 
ments, but destined by capricious Fate to found " a 

297 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

house that should stand far higher than that of Haps- 
burg or Coburg, by the right of a power more mighty 
than that of ancestry the power of gold." 

From his low-born forefathers, whose name Bauer 
(peasant) proclaimed their origin, Meyer Amschel 
inherited all a Jew's love of gold; but the genius which 
he so early developed for winning it was all his own. 
As a schoolboy, he began to make money by shrewd 
dealings in coins and curios. He quickly realised that 
there was no scope for him in the narrow confines of 
the Frankfort Ghetto; and, as soon as his schooldays 
were over, he fared boldly forth into the world, knap- 
sack on his back, a stout stick in his hand, and his small 
savings in his pocket, to conquer fortune. 

At Hanover he found a vacant stool in the office of 
Oppenheims, the wealthy bankers; and he turned his 
opportunity to such excellent account that within a few 
years he had scaled the ladder of promotion to the rung 
of manager. And when he once again set foot in 
Frankfort it was as a man of capital and experience 
that he set up as a dealer in bullion and bills of 
exchange, as a banker and financier. 

Already, on the threshold of manhood, this son of 
the unsavoury Ghetto was a man of wealth and power. 
Customers flocked to him from far and near, and his 
fair dealing soon won for him the description " The 
Honest Jew.'* Gold flowed into his coffers; and 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

living modestly, even meanly, his fortune progressed 
by leaps and bounds, until Meyer Rothschild, the 
peasant's son, was known as the richest man in Frank- 
fort. 

One day, so the story is told, Baron Erstoff took the 
young banker to introduce him to William IX., Land- 
graf of Hesse-Cassel. The Landgraf, absorbed in a 
game of chess, glanced up from the board and asked 
the Jew, " Do you understand chess? " " Suffi- 
ciently well," was the prompt and diplomatic answer, 
" to induce me, if the game were mine, to castle on 
the king's side! " an answer which pleased His 
Highness so much that, a few days later, Rothschild 
found himself installed as banker to William and his 
Court. 

These were the terrible days when Napoleon was 
laying Europe waste with fire and sword; and his 
destroying armies were now drawing near to Frank- 
fort. The Landgraf, alarmed for his personal safety, 
began to make hurried arrangements for flight; and, 
unable to take his gold with him, gave it into the 
custody of his banker probably scarcely hoping to 
see it again. It is said that Rothschild promptly 
buried the treasure, amounting to half-a-million 
pounds or more, in his garden, where at least it should 
be safe from marauding soldiers. But the more pro- 
bable story is that the Hof-Agent found a much better 

299 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

use for the gold thus entrusted to his care. " He saw 
how to make it yield an excellent return to himself; 
and at a time when gold was so scarce, and in such 
universal demand, he saw that it required only a cool 
head and sound judgment to turn over the capital to 
considerable advantage. The result was that within 
six years he had nearly quadrupled the Landgraf s 
treasure." 

However this may be, we know that when William 
was at last able to return to Hesse-Cassel, the banker 
proudly handed over every pound of his fortune, with 
substantial interest added ; that he was a much richer 
man than when it came into his keeping, and also that 
William was so pleased with this evidence of honesty 
that he left the money in Rothschild's hands to do as 
he pleased with. 

The tide of Meyer Amschel's fortune now began to 
run more strongly than ever. War, which brought 
ruin and disaster to others, poured streams of gold into 
his exchequer. From his stores of gold he was able 
to lend large sums to Napoleon, to the allied Princes, 
and to Denmark. He made 150,000 a year by con- 
veying specie from England to Spain to pay Welling- 
ton's soldiers. He became the financial king of 
Europe, to whom other Kings came as suppliants; and 
while feeding the flames of war with his gold, drew 
from it fortune on fortune. 

300 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

When at last Meyer Amschel died, full of years, 
and rich beyond his wildest dreams, he summoned to 
his bedside his five sons and daughters, and counselled 
them to keep intact the large fortune he had built up 
for them to work together in harmonious partnership 
never, so far as possible, to marry outside the family 
circle; to be cautious, honourable, and industrious. 
This and much other sage counsel the dying Croesus 
gave to those to whom he left the burden and respon- 
sibility of his wealth. But already he had long seen 
all his five sons following worthily in his footsteps. 
Each was head of a branch of the family business at 
Frankfort, Vienna, London, Naples, and Paris. The 
Rothschild net was cast all over Europe, and every 
branch was flourishing. 

So precociously clever was his son Nathan that at 
thirteen he had been sent to England to take charge 
of the family interests; and in a few years he had 
qualified as the most astute dealer in cotton that Man- 
chester had ever known. From Manchester he 
migrated to London, with 200,000 at his back, to 
match his wits against the cleverest of our financiers; 
and so brilliant was his success that before he saw his 
thirtieth birthday he had increased his fortune tenfold. 

He made hundreds of thousands of pounds by 
trafficking in Wellington's drafts, which he bought at 
a heavy discount, and sold to the Government at par. 

301 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Like his father, he advanced enormous sums to the 
great nations of Europe, clearing a fortune on each 
transaction; and soon waxed so rich and powerful that 
twice he saved the Bank of England from the ignominy 
of having to close its doors. 

A story which shows how Nathan first compelled 
the Bank of England to realise his power is told thus: 
The Bank had refused to accept the paper of private 
individuals, and Nathan is supposed to have 
exclaimed: " Private individuals! I shall make the 
directors feel what kind of private individuals are the 
Rothschilds." Picture him, three weeks later, in his 
old frock coat, presenting to the cashier of the Bank 
of England a five-pound note, for which he receives, 
not without close scrutiny, five sovereigns. Another 
five-pound note is tranquilly presented at the wicket, 
and nine of Nathan's employes are engaged in the 
same tedious process of exchange. This process con- 
tinues all through banking hours, and the next day 
Nathan and his employes return. The Bank finds his 
conduct " very eccentric "; but, as he assures the 
directors that he is able and willing to continue the 
siege in this manner for two months, they capitulate, 
and agree to accept the paper of those " private 
individuals," the Rothschilds. 

There was no army on the Continent that was not 
followed by the keen eyes of Nathan's agents. Every 

302 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

day swift pigeons were winging their way to London, 
carrying cipher messages recording each ebb and flow 
in the tide of war; and every day the astute Jew was 
coining information into gold on the Stock Exchange. 

The climax of his foresight came when Napoleon's 
final fate hung in the balance on the plain of Waterloo. 
Nathan himself had followed Wellington's army to 
the battlefield, clinging closely to its skirts, in spite of 
the Duke's threat to " hang that plaguey Jew if he did 
not keep his distance "; and from a point of vantage he 
watched keenly the fortunes of the day. 

When he saw that Napoleon's fate was sealed, he 
dug his spurs into his horse, raced madly through the 
night to Ostend, bribed some fishermen to risk their 
lives by carrying him across the storm-tossed Channel; 
and the next morning was in his place in the Stock 
Exchange, the picture of solemnity and dejection. 
Soon the news flashed through the House that Welling- 
ton had been beaten Rothschild's face alone was 
proof enough. The funds dropped heavily; and as 
they dropped his agents bought and bought, to the 
tune of many millions. The following day came news 
of the great victory. The enemy of Europe was 
crushed beyond recovery. Up soared the funds like a 
rocket. Nathan's agents unloaded; and their clever 
master was able to put a round million pounds of profit 
into his pocket. 

3>3 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

But all his millions were powerless to bring happi- 
ness to Nathan Rothschild. As he progressed in years 
and riches he became more and more a prey to tortur- 
ing delusions. He lived in daily fear of the assassin's 
knife or pistol; he saw in every man he met an enemy. 
The caricatures and satires of which he was the butt 
made him so morbidly sensitive that he would slink 
shamefacedly along the streets, fearing to see derision 
in the face of every passer-by. And when death came 
at last to relieve him of his gold and his fears, his last 
words, gasped with horror in his eyes, were: " Look! 
He is trying to kill me! " 

While Nathan was prospering in England, his four 
brothers were equally successful on the Continent. 
Each of them (as well as Nathan) had been ennobled, 
and had blossomed into a Baron of the Austrian 
Empire. Each was the centre of a fawning crowd of 
satellites, including Kings and the great ones of the 
earth; and to each the most exclusive doors of Society 
were flung open in obsequious welcome. The sons of 
the Ghetto child were the financial sovereigns of the 
world. 

At Paris, Baron James was " plus roi que le roi." 
He was a weekly and welcome guest at the King's 
table; his wife's receptions were attended by Louis 
Philippe and his sons; his home was a palace of Art 
and luxury which had scarcely a rival in Europe; and, 

34 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

in his prodigal charity, he would dine with his windows 
open, so that he might fling banknotes and gold to the 
grovelling beggars gathered outside. 

Such were the splendours and wealth which the sons 
of the Judengasse dealer in curios lived to see. How, 
in later years, the family of Rothschild added to their 
gold until it is now estimated in hundreds of millions 
of pounds; the colossal scale of their transactions, of 
which the raising of 160,000,000 in British Govern- 
ment loans is a sample; their splendours and their regal 
charities all these are too well known to call for 
detailed mention. 

The present head of the English house figures on 
our roll of Peerage; the Rothschild daughters have 
mated with foreign Princes and nobles. One wore a 
Countess's coronet as Lord Rosebery's wife; others 
have become members of the Hardwicke and 
Southampton families. And in the years to come the 
blood of the Ghetto child will, no doubt, flow in the 
veins of scores of the most exalted families of Europe. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

AN EARLDOM THAT WENT A-BEGGING 

THE noble house of Hastings, whose proud pedigree 
reaches back to the far-away days when Hugh de 
Hastings played the role of Steward to the first of our 
Henrys, records many a romantic story in its eight 
centuries of history; but none more singular than the 
episode to which the death of the tenth Earl of 
Huntingdon was the prelude. 

When Francis, the tenth lord of his line, was laid to 
rest in the family vault one October day in 1780, it 
seemed to the world at large that the book of his family 
history was closed for ever. One after another the 
descendants of every Earl who had preceded him had 
died out. His own three brothers had died unwed; 
and to himself no child had been born. The news- 
papers which recorded his death and his virtues 
referred to him as the last of his distinguished line. 

But noble houses are not often so completely extir- 
pated. There is usually to be found some remote and 
obscure kinsman, whose very existence is perhaps un- 
known, who steps forward to claim the derelict 
honours, and so it was with this Earldom of Hunting- 
don. The tenth Earl had not long been in his vault 
before it began to be rumoured that he had a successor 
306 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

in a country parson, the Rev. Theophilus Henry 
Hastings, Rector of Great and Little Leke, an 
obscure and eccentric cleric who had just celebrated 
his seventieth birthday by taking to wife a domestic 
servant. 

The Rev. Theophilus was, in fact, the rightful heir 
to the Huntingdon Earldom, although he had to go 
back to Elizabeth's day to prove his title. He was 
the lineal descendant of Sir Edward Hastings, 
youngest son of the second Earl by Katherine Pole, 
who had for great-grandfather George, Duke of 
Clarence, brother of King Edward IV. His pedigree, 
when it was produced, was unimpeachable; and the 
country Rector, who cared far more about tithes than 
titles, found himself in his old age the richer by a 
coronet and a wife, both equally undesired. And by 
both wife and rank he came equally romantically. 

When Mr. Hastings was a young man fresh to his 
cassock he had lost his heart to the charms of a win- 
some chambermaid, one Betsy Warner; and in the 
fervour of his passion he promised to make her his wife 
as soon as a living fell to his lot. Years passed, the 
lovers were separated and the faithless Theophilus 
had secured both the living and another bride, but 
Betsy never came either to claim her rights or to load 
him with reproaches. 

He was, in fact, a widower and an old man, with 
more thought of the next world than of earthly altars, 

3>7 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

when one day a post-chaise drawn by four horses 
rattled up the Rectory drive, and came to a halt at 
his door. An elderly, plain-featured woman 
descended, and was ushered into the parson's study. 

" What can I do for you, madam? " was the 
reverend gentleman's greeting to his unknown visitor. 
" What can you do for me? " the lady repeated, in 
accents of surprise and reproach. " Why, Theo- 
philus, don't you know me? I am Betsy Betsy 
Warner, the girl you loved and promised to marry 
many years ago. I have been true to you from that 
day to this; and now that you have got the living, of 
course you'll keep your word and marry me! " 

Was ever man parson or layman placed in a more 
awkward predicament? Here was an aged, unattrac- 
tive, illiterate woman who claimed him as husband. 
There was no escape. His honour was pledged; and, 
true to his word, within a month he placed a wedding- 
ring on Betsy's finger, and in fact made a Countess of 
the once buxom peasant's daughter. A second wife 
was thus thrust upon him; but to his title he would have 
nothing to say. He declined to be addressed as " my 
lord "; and when once a friend protested against such 
modesty, he answered somewhat ungraciously, " I 
have no objection to being an Earl; but I will never 
make Betsy a Countess." And as plain Theophilus 
Hastings he died and was buried, after enjoying his 
shadowy honours less than four years. 

308 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

But although he refused to wear his coronet, he was 
none the less anxious that his right to it should be 
acknowledged and put on record; and, with this object, 
he had placed on one of the pillars of his gate a plate 
with a Latin inscription, stating that he was the 
eleventh Earl of Huntingdon, and by descent entitled 
to the Earldom. 

When the eleventh Earl followed the tenth to his 
last home the title once more became dormant. Theo- 
philus's only surviving brother, George, has preceded 
him to the grave by two years; and of George's four 
sons every one was said to be dead. Thus, it seemed 
certain that the Earldom, which had survived for 
nearly three centuries, had seen its last holder. But, 
although the College of Heralds and every learned 
genealogist had come to this exhaustive conclusion, 
there was one man who knew, or thought he knew, very 
different. 

Some years after the death of Earl Theophilus there 
was living at Enniskillen one Captain Hans Francis 
Hastings, who, after long service in the King's Navy, 
had found a snug, if obscure, berth there as garrison 
storekeeper. A quiet, unpretentious man was the 
Captain a plain old " salt " who was hail-fellow- 
well-met with everybody one of the last men in 
Enniskillen who would be associated with titles of 
Peerage. Indeed, no word of his birth and possible 
claims ever escaped the Captain's lips, except in his 

309 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

confidential chats over a glass and a pipe with Nugent 
Bell, a local attorney, who made a hobby of genealogy, 
and thus took an interest in questions of family history. 

It was during one such confidential chat that the 
lawyer said jokingly, " I say, Hastings, why don't you 
put in a claim to the Huntingdon Earldom? I'll 
wager you have as good a chance as anybody; and I'll 
help you all I can." To this the Captain laughed 
enigmatically. " That's all right. If you can't 
make an Earl of me, nobody can." And with such 
small encouragement the attorney drew from his friend 
one reluctant scrap of family history after another, 
until at last he exclaimed, " 'Pon my soul, Hastings! 
I really believe you are the Earl! We'll have you in 
the House of Lords yet! " 

Then it was that Hastings made a further con- 
fidence. " A good many years ago," he said, " I 
took the trouble to go to the College of Arms to ask 
what steps I should take to claim the title, and how 
much it would cost; but when I learned that nothing 
less than three thousand guineas would pay the bill, I 
decided not to trouble any more about it." 

The following day the Captain wrote to his friend: 
" My dear Bell, I will pay you all costs in case you 
succeed in proving me the legal heir to the Earldom. 
If not, the risk is your own, and I will certainly not be 
answerable for any expense you may incur in the 
course of your investigation." On the back of this 

310 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

letter, as showing what he thought of the whole affair, 
the Captain had written, " By all that's good, you're 
mad." 

Bell's optimism, however, had thoroughly roused 
the Captain, though he still affected to treat the matter 
in a humorous light, as the following letter, written a 
few days later, proves: " My dear Nugent, If you 
should establish me in the Earldom, all I can say is 
that it will be impossible for me or mine to do too much 
for you and yours. I am not sanguine; but the very 
names of George, Henry, Ferdinando, and Francis 
convince me we are the only true descendants of 

Francis, the second Earl. D it! Succeed, and 

you shall be my falconer! If the ' Countess ' does 
not leave Dublin by Tuesday morning, you will cer- 
tainly see me at No. 3, Morland-street, on Wednesday. 
Therefore, I beg you will provide for the Earl at that 
hour. Yours, etc., FRANK." 

This was quite sufficient for the lawyer. He had 
now gone exhaustively into the Hastings pedigree; he 
was personally satisfied that if anyone had a right to 
the Huntingdon Earldom, it was the Captain, who, 
moreover, was willing that he should do what he could 
in the matter. In August, 1817 (within a month of 
the conversations I have recorded) , Mr. Bell was in 
England prosecuting his searches. At Castle 
Donington and Donington Park (Hastings' seats) he 
met with rebuffs and disappointment. Everywhere he 

3" 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

found himself baffled, and he had begun to despair, 
when accident at last placed the sought-for clue in his 
hand. 

One day he was tramping in Leicestershire, carrying 
a heavy heart with him, when he was overtaken by an 
old woman in a market-cart, who kindly offered him a 
lift on his way. As they jogged along, the garrulous 
old lady entertained him with stories of her youth, 
when she was "a very pretty girl," and a maid in the 
service of the Hastings family. At the word 
" Hastings/' the attorney pricked up his ears; and, 
to his delight, learned that the old market-woman had 
actually known Colonel George Hastings (the father 
of his friend, the Captain), who was " on the eve of 
being married to her young mistress, the Lady Selina, 
when her ladyship died suddenly, in the bloom of 
youth and beauty." 

" Colonel Hastings at last married " continued 
the old gossip, little dreaming how eagerly her listener 
was drinking in every word of her story " a very 
beautiful young lady, and had four sons, who, sorry 
am I to say, are all dead. Master Frank, the eldest, 
died at Grantham in his sixth year; Henry and 
Ferdinando died of yellow fever in the West Indies; 
and the fourth and youngest son, Hans, was drowned 
in the Cove of Cork." 

At last, by the merest chance, the lawyer had learned 
the truth. " After I had patiently heard her out," 

3" 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

he says, " I, in my turn, informed her that the person 
supposed to be drowned at Cork was still alive and 
happy, and that it was by no means improbable that 
she would soon see him in possession of at least the 
honours of his family.*' 

There could now be no doubt about it. The Colonel 
George Hastings of the old woman's story was brother 
of the late parson- Earl, and father of his Enniskillen 
friend, Captain Hans Francis. The Captain's three 
brothers were all dead; but, unknown to the Peerage- 
books and the world, Hans Francis was no drowned 
man, but very much alive and ready to step into his 
heritage as " heir male of the body of the first Earl." 
Such was the result, within a few weeks, of a jocular 
remark made in Enniskillen over a glass of toddy and 
a pipe. 

Thus furnished with the vital clue, Mr. Bell com- 
pleted his case by prolonged searches among parish 
records and tombstones, until at last he was able to 
submit complete proofs to Sir Samuel Romilly, the 
great lawyer, from whom he soon received a most re- 
assuring letter. " It appears to me," wrote Romilly, 
" that the evidence which I before thought wanting 
has now been supplied by you; and it does not occur 

to me that any further search is necessary 

I have written to Lord Huntingdon respecting his 
taking the title; and, although there does not exist the 
slightest doubt of his just claim, I have now rather 

313 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

dissuaded him from using it before his claim is 
established.'* 

A few days later the Enniskillen storekeeper was 
reading this letter, with the significant footnote in 

Bell's handwriting, " D it, my dear Earl, I have 

succeeded, and I claim my appointment as falconer! 
My homage to the Countess. N.B." 

So clearly-established was the claim that, when Mr. 
Bell presented a petition to the Crown, the Attorney- 
General was able within a few days to report to the 
Regent: " Upon the whole of the case I am humbly 
of opinion that the petitioner, Hans Francis Hastings, 
has sufficiently proved his right to the title of Earl of 
Huntingdon; and that it may be advisable, if your 
Royal Highness be graciously pleased to do so, to 
order a Writ of Summons to pass the Great Seal to 
summon the said petitioner to sit in Parliament and 
there enjoy the rank and privileges to the said title 
belonging." 

On the 7th of January, 1818, the Prince Regent 
signed the Royal warrant; and a few days later the 
Enniskillen storekeeper was making his stately pro- 
gress, in his Peer's robes, up the floor of the House 
of Lords to take the oaths and his place as twelfth Earl 
of Huntingdon; while among the spectators in the 
gallery was Nugent Bell, attorney, who had thus 
romantically placed a coronet on the head of his friend. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

A TRAGEDY OF THE ALTAR 

ON the far-reaching family-tree of the noble house of 
Cathcart there is many a name that recalls a story of 
more than ordinary romance from Sir Alan, whose 
sword dealt such doughty strokes on Loudoun Hill six 
centuries ago, to William, tenth Baron and first Earl 
of his line, who won the laurels of war in the Peninsula 
and at Copenhagen, and at St. Petersburg proved him- 
self as astute in diplomacy as he was valiant in battle. 

The Cathcarts have ever been brave soldiers, 
" worthy and widht, stalwart and stout," revelling in 
hard knocks, and always in the thickest of the fray, 
from Loudoun Hill and Flodden Field, where two of 
their bravest sons were " among the noble slain," to 
Inkerman, where General Sir George drew his last 
gallant breath on that black November day in 1854. 
And the wives of these martial Cathcarts have been as 
fair as their husbands have been brave, with the blood 
of some of the proudest stocks of Scotland in their 
veins. 

In glancing down the list of these Cathcart dames, 
the eye is arrested by a name which recalls a story of 
strange romance that of the wife of Charles, eighth 

315 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Baron. " This," says Sir Bernard Burke, " is the 
lady of whom the extraordinary story is told of her 
having been confined for many years by her last 
husband, Colonel Maguire, in a lonely castle in the 
fastnesses of Ireland." 

The heroine of this strange adventure first opened 
her eyes on the world in Battersea one day in the year 
1692. She had for father a Mr. Malyn, a South wark 
tradesman, who had prospered so well that he was able 
to leave his business premises and instal his family in 
a country home of some pretensions among the pleasant 
fields of Battersea, where his four daughters grew to 
vigorous and pretty girlhood. 

Of the tradesman's daughters, Mary was by common 
consent the most beautiful a high-spirited girl, with 
a figure abounding in grace and vitality, and a face of 
" cream and roses," from which a pair of blue eyes 
looked out merrily and mischievously at the world. 
It was little wonder that this beautiful daughter of the 
well-gilded merchant had no lack of wooers to dance 
attendance on her; or that she wore her orange-blossom 
before she had long graduated from short frocks. 

The first of Mary's four husbands was Mr. James 
Fleet, a handsome young man, son of a most pros- 
perous merchant in London City, who, as Sir John 
Fleet, had served his year in the Lord Mayor's chair. 
And thus was proud Mary Malyn, while still in her 

3*5 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

'teens, installed as a lady of the manor in a goodly 
mansion at Tewin, in Hertfordshire. But her first 
taste of wedded life was destined to be as brief as it 
was happy, for her husband left her a widow before 
she had long passed her twentieth birthday. 

She was not, however, long disconsolate. Before 
she had worn her weeds many months, wooers came 
flocking to the feet of the pretty widow, who to youth 
and good looks now allied a substantial dower in gold 
and lands. She had made her first adventure at the 
altar for money; this time she determined she would 
give her hand to no man who could not give her the 
entree to good Society, whose doors were closed 
against the tradesman's wife and daughter. And after 
much dallying and coquetting, she bestowed it on 
Captain Sabine, a scion of an old family, whose 
brother, General Sabine, was one of the great men of 
her county. With her second husband she spent many 
more or less happy years, realising her small social 
ambition and playing the Lady Bountiful with her 
gold, until once again she was called upon to wear 
widow's mourning; and this time with, it seemed, small 
prospect of wearing a wedding-ring for any other man. 

Mrs. Sabine was now on the borderland of middle- 
age. Her figure had lost the graceful lines of youth; 
her complexion had lost its roses. But she was still a 
comely woman, with a sprightly wit and a clever 

317 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

tongue; and once more wooers came to seek her hand, 
and among them was a man who could, if she would, 
place a coronet on her head. This titled lover was no 
other than the eighth Lord Cathcart, a handsome man 
little older than herself; and, although he was a 
widower, and the father of four stalwart sons and as 
many daughters, a great favourite at Court, and a 
soldier of distinction. 

To such a lover few women could long remain 
obdurate; and certainly not the Hertfordshire widow, 
who had long hankered after the splendours of Courts. 
And thus it was that one day in the year 1739 Mary 
Malyn made her third trip to the altar; this time to 
leave the church a lady of title, the eighth on a proud 
line of Baronesses. At last she had reached the goal 
of her ambition; but, alas ! once again Fate was to prove 
unkind. She had worn her new honours but a year 
when her lord was taken from her side, and sent in 
charge of an expedition against the Spanish King's 
dominions in America, a land which he was fated never 
to reach; for illness seized him, and he died on the out- 
ward voyage, leaving his wife a widow for the third 
time. 

" I married my first husband for money/' she said 
at this time; " my second for social position; my third 
for a title. If I marry again, it shall be for love 
alone." And before she had ceased to mourn her 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Cathcart husband, love came to her (or so she fondly 
imagined) in the guise of a good-looking, fascinating 
Irishman, whose blarney and tales of heroism quickly 
turned the widow's middle-aged head. He was, he 
told her, an officer in the Hungarian army and by far 
the most valiant man in it, on his own showing; but 
this foreign army rank, invested with glory as it was, 
did not satisfy my lady, who, as evidence of her favour, 
spent 2,000 in purchasing for him a Colonelcy in a 
British regiment. Never did bride of seventeen go 
more blithely to the altar with the man of her heart than 
this thrice-wedded Baroness with her brave and ador- 
ing Colonel. She had won gold and rank with her 
charms; now she was to receive the crown of her desires 
in a man's passionate love. 

But before her honeymoon had waned disillusion had 
dawned. The gay, lion-hearted soldier proved a cur 
and a coward in the crucible of matrimony. With 
brutal candour, he was quick to let her see that her 
gold, and not herself, had been the lure that had 
attracted him. " Do you imagine/' he blustered one 
day, within a month of the wedding-bells, " I should 
have married an old frump like you if you had not been 
well-gilded? It's your money I want; and your 
money I will have." And when she refused to open 
her purse for she still had plenty of spirit left he 
whipped out a pistol and presented it at her head. 

3*9 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

But, in spite of her bold front, the Baroness was so 
alarmed at her husband's violence that she secreted 
all her valuables, hiding her jewels in the plaits of her 
hair and in the linings of her petticoats. As if brutality 
and threats were not outrage enough, the Colonel con- 
ducted liaisons under the eyes of his wife, and intro- 
duced his lights o' love into the house to play the spy 
on her. When, thanks to the treachery of one of these 
conspirators, the Colonel one day discovered his wife's 
will and read its contents, his rage knew no bounds. 
He assaulted her violently, threatened to blow her 
brains out, and concluded by declaring that she was a 
lunatic, and that he would have her " shut up in a 
madhouse." 

The poor lady's position had now become perilous in 
the extreme. Each day brought its scenes of violence, 
its threats, and its disgusting amours. But worse still 
was in store for her. One day the Colonel invited his 
wife to drive with him; and as he appeared in a more 
amiable mood than usual, she consented little dream- 
ing what her destination was to be. Mile after mile 
was covered without any sign of return, until the 
Baroness, in alarm, begged that the horses' heads 
should be turned homewards. " Certainly not," was 
the Colonel's violent answer. "I am going to 
Chester, and to Chester you shall come with me "; 
and in spite of her pleadings and tears the fate- 

320 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

ful journey was continued to a destination and fate 
she now shuddered to think of. 

When days passed, and the Colonel and his wife did 
not return home, the servants and neighbours grew 
alarmed especially as Maguire's threats had become 
common knowledge, and he had been seen in the 
carriage, on the morning of the departure, gesticulating 
fiercely at the Baroness. A magistrate was consulted; 
and soon an attorney, armed with a writ, was in hot 
pursuit of the fugitives, whom he overtook near 
Chester, at a wayside inn where the Colonel had 
stopped to change horses. 

Ushered into the Colonel's presence, the man of law 
asked permission to speak for a few moments with his 
lady, a request which was met with a point-blank re- 
fusal, coupled with violent language and threats. The 
attorney, however, persisted with his demand, until at 
last Maguire, after satisfying himself that the lawyer 
did not know the lady by sight, consented. " Very 
well," he said, " you may see her, since you insist 
on it. But I warn you that it is no good. She will 
tell you that she is going to Ireland with me of her 
own free will, and that neither you nor anybody else 
can stop her." 

After a few moments' delay the attorney was con- 
ducted to a neighbouring room, where a lady, with a 
gracious bow, asked him his business. " Is it true, 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

madam," he asked, " that you are going to Ireland 
with this gentleman of your own free will ? " " Per- 
fectly true," was the answer. " Then, madam, I 
have nothing more to say, except to express my regrets 
for having troubled you. " And he bowed himself out 
little dreaming that the lady he had interviewed was 
a chambermaid, whom the crafty Colonel had bribed 
and coached, during the few minutes' interval, to per- 
sonate his unhappy wife. 

Not content with thus hoodwinking the lawyer, 
Maguire promptly sent a couple of stout fellows in 
pursuit of him. The attorney was overtaken, soundly 
beaten, and flung into a ditch; and, an hour later, his 
papers were in the pocket of the abductor. Thus 
secure from further interference with his designs, the 
Colonel continued his journey to Ireland, and his 
victim found herself installed in a dismal moated house 
in the heart of a desolate country, separated by many 
miles from the nearest habitation. In this gloomy 
prison-house, hemmed in by high, unscalable walls and 
locked gates, she spent the next few years, with a surly 
gaoler and his wife as custodians, visited at intervals 
by her husband, whose brutality and threats nearly 
drove her over the verge of sanity. 

Of the outside world she saw nothing, except an old 
crone who came periodically to weed the overgrown 
garden-paths; and through her she was able to send to 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

a trusted friend the jewels she had succeeded in hiding 
from the Colonel. Over this period of her life, with 
its leaden hours of misery and dread, with shattered 
health and reason trembling in the balance, we must 
pass hurriedly to that day in 1764 when release, long 
despaired of, came at last. On that morning the 
Colonel was found dead in his bed. 

Concealment was no longer possible when his rela- 
tives were summoned to his funeral. Lady Cathcart, 
after long years of " hell on earth/' was at last a free 
woman; and a week or two later the horses were being 
taken from her carriage, and she was drawn in triumph 
through the streets of Hertford by the jubilant friends 
and neighbours of her happier days. She survived to 
dance a minuet at Bath when long past her eightieth 
birthday, and she was within sight of her hundredth 
year when death at last came to her. But to her last 
day it was dangerous to mention the word "marriage" 
to the old lady, unless she was in a particularly amiable 
mood, when she would say, " I think the devil owed 
me a grudge, and wished to punish me for my sins! " 



323 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

THE BEAUTIFUL SHERIDANS 

IN her " Record of a Girlhood " Fanny Kemble gives 
a charming account of an evening she spent at the 
house of Mrs. Norton, " when a host of distinguished 
public and literary men were crowded into the small 
drawing-room, which was literally resplendent with 
the light of Sheridan beauty, male and female." 

Mrs. Sheridan, the mother of the " Three Graces," 
was there, more lovely than any but her daughters; 
Lady Graham, their beautiful aunt; Mrs. Norton, 
Mrs. Blackwood (Lady Dufferin), Georgiana Sheridan 
(Duchess of Somerset), and Charles Sheridan, their 
younger brother, a sort of younger brother of the 
Apollo Belvidere. " Certainly," says Fanny Kemble, 
" I never saw such a bunch of beautiful creatures all 
growing on one stem. I remarked it to Mrs. Norton, 
who looked complacently round her tiny drawing- 
room and said, ' Yes, we are rather good-looking 
people/ " 

Such, eighty years ago, were the Sheridans, incom- 
parably the best-looking family in England, with a 
beauty inherited from their grandmother, Elizabeth 
Linley, the " Nightingale of Bath," and with gifts and 
graces of mind worthy of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 

324 




THE HONORABLE MRS. NORTON 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the story of whose romantic wooing of the " Nightin- 
gale " has already been told in a former volume. 

Of the three daughters of handsome, witty, fascina- 
ting Tom Sheridan (the " Nightingale's " son) it is 
not easy to say which was the most lovely, since each, 
in her way, was matchless. " The beauty of each," 
says the late Marquis of Dufferin, son of Helen 
Sheridan, " was of a different type, but they were all 
equally tall and stately. The Duchess of Somerset 
had large, deep blue or violet eyes, black hair, black 
eyebrows and eyelashes, perfect features, and a com- 
plexion of lilies and roses. Mrs. Norton, on the con- 
trary, was a brunette, with dark, burning eyes like her 
grandfather's, a pure Greek profile, and a clear, olive 
complexion. The brothers were all over six feet. 

" My mother, though her features were less regular 
than those of her sisters, was equally lovely and 
attractive. Her figure was divine the perfection of 
grace and symmetry. Her hands and feet were very 
small, many sculptors having asked to model the 
former." 

It was Lord Dufferin's mother who, when describ- 
ing herself and her sister to Disraeli, said, " You 
see, Georgy's the beauty and Carry's the wit; and I 
ought to be the good one, but I'm not." And per- 
haps, if one must award the palm of beauty to one of 
the "Graces," it should go to Georgy, who, as 
Duchess of Somerset, was considered by many the 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

most supremely lovely woman of her day in England 
and this, in spite of Disraeli's verdict that Lady 
Dufferin was " the most beautiful and charming of 
the three wonderful sisters " ; and also of that verdict 
of Shelley, who said of Mrs. Norton, " I never met a 
woman so perfectly charming, with so variable, but 
always beautiful an expression." 

That women so " divinely fair " should remain 
long unappropriated was not to be expected. Each 
in turn was led to the altar while still a girl, and each 
entered the circle of the Peerage by the altar steps. 
Helen was but seventeen, in the first flush of her 
girlish charms, when she gave her hand to Com- 
mander Price Blackwood, who succeeded his father 
in the family Barony; and in much later years, when 
she was a middle-aged woman, she made a second 
dramatic marriage with Lord Gifford, heir to the 
Tweeddale Marquisate, on his deathbed. 

Caroline Sheridan found a husband in the Hon. 
George Norton, a shiftless barrister, who crowned 
his infamous treatment of her by a baseless charge, 
in which his wife's name was shamefully associated 
with that of Lord Melbourne ; and when a bedridden 
woman, verging on seventy, and within three months 
of her death, she became the wife of her old and 
valued friend, Sir William Stirling-Maxwell. Mrs. 
Norton, who for fifty years dazzled Society by her 

326 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

brilliant gifts, and achieved fame by the magic of her 
pen, was, says Charles Austen, " the most brilliant 
woman I ever met; her brilliancy was like summer 
lightning it dazzled, but it did not hurt." 

Fascinating as are the life-stories of these two 
Queens of Beauty, with their superlative gifts and 
graces, we must pass to the youngest of the sisters, 
Georgiana, who inherited in such full measure her 
grandmother's dower of loveliness and her grand- 
father's clever brain. 

We have already seen a charming picture of 
Georgiana by her nephew, the great diplomatist; but 
no words can do justice to charms which baffled the 
brushes of the most skilful artists of her day. As a 
child, in her mother's home at Hampton Court, 
Georgy won the hearts of all the Court gallants by 
her fairy beauty and sylph-like grace ; and among her 
many " upgrown " lovers was none other than the 
Regent himself, who loved to take his little " Prin- 
cess," as he called her, on his knee, and to steal a kiss 
from her pretty, pouting lips. 

A few years later we find her the acknowledged 
belle of the children's ball which the Duke of 
Clarence gave to the little Queen of Portugal; at 
which she says, " Caroline and I had gold and green 
wreaths with scarlet berries in our hair, and I had a 
red velvet body a ' Marie Stuart/ which is the 

3*7 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

fashion now and white satin skirt." A curious con- 
trast to this Irish beauty must have been the girl 
Queen of Portugal who, " although ten years old, 
looked fourteen, and was dressed like a grown-up 
woman, in a pink gauze gown, with her hair turned 
up and flowers in it." 

Among Georgiana's many lovers was the shy and 
awkward Edward Adolphus, Lord Seymour, heir to 
the Dukedom of Somerset, a young man who, apart 
from his rank, was at a marked disadvantage com- 
pared with his rivals. But what he lacked in per- 
sonal attractions he made up by a devotion so great 
that it completely won his lady's heart; and it was 
not long before Georgiana was able to write to her 
favourite brother : 

" My darling Brinny, Your Georgy is going to be 
turned into a chaperon. Lord Seymour, the Duke 
of Somerset's son, asked me yesterday to marry him; 
and I, being civil and polite, said ' Yes/ Joking 
apart, I am going to marry him. He is very clever 
and good. The Duke, his father, has no objection, 
and is very kind indeed. So are his sisters; but my 
acquaintances are rabid and frantic at my daring to 
do such a thing; and they turn round after first con- 
gratulating mamma, and say, ' Good Heavens, is 
Lord Seymour mad? What a fool!' with other 
pleasing intimations of their good wishes towards 



3*8 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Thus simply and with such quaint humour does 
the young beauty announce that she is to be the bride 
of the heir to a Dukedom. 

Less than a month later Georgiana, " dressed in 
plain white satin, with no ornaments but a diamond- 
brooch and earrings, beautiful blonde seduisantes, 
and a magnificent blonde veil thrown over her head, 
so large that it nearly reached her feet," was quietly 
wedded to her lord in the back drawing-room of his 
father's town-house, with a few relatives for specta- 
tors. " I think," writes her sister, Lady Dufferin, " I 
never saw anything so perfectly beautiful as she 
looked." After the ceremony the young couple set 
off for a six weeks' honeymoon to Wimbledon Park, 
where, the bride says, " the bedstead in my room was 
the bed of Lady Jane Seymour." 

Thus we find the loveliest of the Sheridans trans- 
ported from the seclusion of Hampton Court to the 
splendours of ducal palaces, and to the centre of the 
great world of fashion of which, for so many years, 
she was to be so conspicuous an ornament. By right 
of beauty and of rank she took at once the position 
of a queen of society, a position which she filled with 
a rare grace and dignity. 

After she had been a wife nine years her crowning 
triumph came, when she was chosen from the whole 
world of fair women to preside as " Queen of 

3 2 9 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Beauty " over that famous tournament in which Lord 
Eglinton revived all the splendours of mediaeval 
chivalry. The tournament, it is true, was a fiasco, 
thanks to the pitiless deluge of rain which converted 
the ground into a quagmire, and drenched alike 
knightly plumes and ladies' finery; but through it all 
the beauty of the " Queen " shone with dazzling 
radiance, as if the elements themselves were power- 
less to dim its lustre. 

It was fresh from this triumph that Lady Seymour 
engaged in that epistolary duel with a Lady Shuck- 
burgh which has furnished so much amusement for 
later generations. She had written to Lady Shuck- 
burgh for the character of Mary Stedman, who had 
applied to her for a situation as cook; and to this 
perfectly polite letter the knight's lady had answered 
that she was not accustomed to give characters to 
" kitchen maids, this being always done by my house- 
keeper, Mrs. Couch," to whom Lady Seymour should 
apply for a character. 

To this high and mighty letter Lady Seymour re- 
torted, " Lady Seymour presents her compliments to 
Lady Shuckburgh, and begs she will order her house- 
keeper, Mrs. Pouch, to send the girl's character with- 
out delay; otherwise, another young woman will be 
sought for elsewhere, as Lady Seymour's children 
cannot remain without their dinner because Lady 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Shuckburgh, ' keeping a professed cook and house- 
keeper,' thinks a knowledge of the details of her estab- 
lishment beneath her notice. Lady Seymour under- 
stood from Stedman that, in addition to her other 
talents, she was actually capable of dressing food fit for 
the little Shuckburghs to partake of when hungry." 

This scathing, and not quite " ladylike," note was 
accompanied by a pencil-sketch, picturing the little 
Shuckburghs, " with large turnip-looking heads and 
cauliflower wigs voraciously scrambling for mutton- 
chops provided by Mary Stedman, who is looking on 
with serene satisfaction, while Lady Shuckburgh 
appears in the distance with horror and dismay on her 
face." 

To this letter Lady Shuckburgh deigned no reply 
herself, but left her housekeeper to take up the 
cudgels, with this result : " Madame, Lady Shuck- 
burgh has directed me to acquaint you that she de- 
clines answering your note, the vulgarity of which is 
beneath contempt. And, although it may be the 
characteristic of the Sheridans to be vulgar, coarse, 
and witty, it is not that of a ' lady/ unless she happens 
to have been born in a garret and bred in the kitchen. 
Mary Stedman informs me that your ladyship does 
not keep either a cook or a housekeeper, and that you 
only ^require a girl who can cook a mutton-chop. If 
so, I apprehend that Mary Stedman, or any other 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

scullion, will be found equal to cook for, or manage 
the establishment of, the Queen of Beauty. I am, 
your ladyships, &c., ELIZABETH COUCH (not POUCH) ." 

Such was the tournament in which the Queen of 
Beauty herself couched a lance, and in which she 
does not seem to have carried off the honours. But 
a quick temper and a sarcastic tongue were among 
the Duchess's few blemishes, and no doubt made 
many enemies for her. An amusing and characteris- 
tic sample of her sarcasm is given thus : One day 
she ordered certain goods of a tradesman, which 
were not sent home. On the following morning when 
she visited the shop again to enquire the reason, the 
proprietor was unable to trace the order. " May I 
ask your Grace," he enquired, " who took the order ? 
Was it a young gentleman with fair hair?" " No." 
curtly answered the Duchess, " it was an elderly 
nobleman with a bald head." 

Splendid as was Georgiana's life with her in- 
dulgent and worshipping husband, it was clouded by 
more than one terrible tragedy. Her second son, 
Lord Edmund St. Maur, was killed by a tiger in 
India; and her eldest son died with tragic sudden- 
ness in his mother's arms. One September night in 
1869, Earl St. Maur was seized with a violent attack 
of coughing, and "went to sleep in a little back 
parlour, where I had a little iron bedstead put up. 
Next morning at eight my maid ran into the room," 

33* 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

the mother says, " crying, ' the Earl is ill !' I hurried 
down the two flights of stairs. ' He is down on the 
floor ! ' A clay-cold hand clasps mine. ' Oh, 
mother!' and he became speechless. My maid and 
I raised him up, sitting against our knees. I sent a 
pressing, urgent message to the doctor. I remained 
three-quarters of an hour on my knees, supporting a 
gasping, dying man." 

For hours the lamp of life flickered, the agonised 
mother " tearing up her nightdress for rags, cutting 
the strings of her petticoats for the surgeons, waiting 
on them herself because there were no servants." 
And all to no purpose. Her son drew his last breath 
in her arms. " No pauper," exclaimed the heart- 
broken mother, " could have died more denuded of 
chances; no wandering Hagar could have seen her 
son perish more helplessly or more alone." 

For fifteen years the Duchess survived this crown- 
ing tragedy. Robbed of her children, her beauty but 
a memory, she presented a brave, smiling face to the 
world, until, just at the moment when she had an- 
nounced her intention "to live again at last," death 
came to claim her. " On Sunday morning," her 
bereaved husband wrote to his brother-in-law, 
" Georgy passed away in a quiet doze. She had suf- 
fered so much during the last eight months, and had 
nearly lost her sight, that it is for her a comfort, but 
to us a great loss." 

333 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

THE COMTESSE DE GRAMONT 

AMONG the Court ladies who have danced their way 
across the stage in our Peerage Drama there have 
been so many whose fairness was only matched by 
their frailty, and whose charms have been the guerdon 
of the highest bidder, that it is a pleasure to turn to 
one Queen of Beauty who proved that she could carry 
an unspotted fame through all the temptations of the 
most vicious Court England has ever known, while 
sacrificing none of the supremacy which is the dower 
of supreme loveliness. 

Such an embodiment of all the graces and all the 
virtues was Elizabeth Hamilton, who came from 
France with Charles's exiled Court in 1660 to shed a 
lustre on the restored glories of our Stuart Kings. 
She had spent the years of her early girlhood with 
her father, Sir George Hamilton, a younger son of the 
Earl of Abercorn, and with her brothers and sisters 
in the Paris Faubourg St. Jacques, sharing the fallen 
fortunes of her Sovereign, and waiting patiently for 
the day that should see him restored to his throne. 
And even as a girl her beauty, her winsomeness, and 
her gaiety captivated all hearts. 

334 




LA BELLE HAMILTON 

AFTERWARDS 

COUNTESS DE GRAMMONT 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

" Everyone was her lover," says Sir John Reresby ; 
" from the King himself to the youngest Page. In 
his Majesty's frequent fits of gloom she was the only 
one who could bring a smile to his lips by her infec- 
tious and irrepressible high spirits. I, myself, was 
her veriest slave, and would gladly have made her 
my v/ife had my fortune permitted." 

When at last the dark days of exile gave place to 
the splendid era of the Restoration, Elizabeth Hamil- 
ton's beauty, although she had still to see her 
twentieth birthday, had reached its dazzling zenith. 
" She had," says her brother Anthony, " the finest 
shape, the loveliest neck, and the most beautiful arms 
in the world. She was majestic and graceful in all 
her movements; and she was the original which all 
the ladies copied in their taste and art of dress. Her 
forehead was open, white, and smooth; her hair was 
well set, and fell with ease into that natural order 
which it is so difficult to imitate. Her complexion 
had a freshness not to be equalled by borrowed 
colours ; her eyes were lively, and capable of express- 
ing whatever she pleased; her mouth was full of 
graces, and her contour uncommonly perfect; nor 
was her nose, which was small, delicate, and turned 
up, the least ornament of so lovely a face. In fine, 
her air, her carriage, and the numberless graces dis- 
persed over her whole person made the Chevalier de 

335 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Gramont (her future husband) not doubt but that she 
was possessed of every other qualification." 

Such, in the cold medium of prose, was this 
daughter of the House of Abercorn when she joined 
the galaxy of fair women that flitted round the throne 
of the now Merry Monarch in the first years of his 
reign. There was no Court in Europe which con- 
tained so many lovely women as this of Whitehall 
when the second Charles was new to his crown from 
La Belle Stuart, whose childish beauty and wayward- 
ness played such havoc with the King's susceptible 
heart, to Frances Jennings, whose radiant and more 
mature charms drew lovers to her feet as irresistibly 
as the magnet draws the needle. 

But Elizabeth Hamilton was Queen, by common 
consent, of them all, with a beauty more splendid 
than theirs, and graces of mind which none of them 
could hope to rival. Every gallant at Court was her 
avowed lover from the Duke of Richmond, whose 
mourning for his first wife was still new, to Henry 
Jermyn, King of Restoration beaux, whose flowing 
wig, clouded cane, and daintily-perfumed laces were 
ever in the wake of the new divinity. 

Richard Talbot, the handsomest man of his day, 
and the idol of every Court lady, was driven to dis- 
traction by her coldness and transported to heaven by 
her smiles; Henry Howard tried in vain to dazzle her 

336 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

eyes with the prospect of a Duchess's coronet; and 
there was no man &t Whitehall who was not equally 
eager to secure the prize with his good looks, his 
rank, or his riches. 

One of the most constant and ardent of her slaves 
was no other than James, Duke of York, the King's 
brother, and his successor on the throne, who had 
begun his wooing years earlier in the Faubourg St. 
Jacques, almost before Elizabeth had ceased to nurse 
her dolls. Now that she had reached the perfection 
of her beauty, his ardour was increased tenfold. He 
was her very shadow, following her everywhere; and 
when his sighs and oglings and pretty speeches made 
no impression on her, he would bombard her with 
billet-doux, full of tenderness and protestations of 
undying love. Never was maiden's heart subjected 
to such an obdurate siege, or with smaller success ; for 
she made it abundantly clear to Prince and courtier 
alike that her favours were for no man who could 
not possess her heart with them; and that heart she 
was in no hurry to give into any man's keeping. 

But to Elizabeth Hamilton as to so many other 
" impregnable " maidens the " Prince Charming " 
came at last in the guise of the Comte de Gramont, 
one of the least likely, one would have thought, of all 
her legion of suitors to win the prize. Gramont was 
a late comer in the lists of love ; for he did not make 

337 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

his appearance at Whitehall until Elizabeth Hamil- 
ton had enjoyed a full year of her queendom. 

He was a man of no physical attractiveness in- 
deed, in later years, his face was once described as 
" that of an ape," although another description credits 
him with " laughing eyes, well-made nose, beautiful 
mouth, and a little dimple in his chin." And he was 
just twice her age. But, though he lacked both youth 
and comeliness, he was an adept in all the arts of 
love, a courtier to his finger-tips, with a tongue skilled 
in the framing of witty speeches and subtle flatteries. 
He had, moreover, the magnetism of personality, 
which attracts women more potently than mere per- 
fection of face and figure. 

It was at a Court ball that Gramont first set eyes 
on the queenly figure and grace of the woman who 
was to become his wife; and at sight of her he was 
undone. The impression he made on her was very 
different; for, it is said, she asked Jermyn, who was 
still dangling hopelessly at her heels, " Who is that 
ugly man, who looks so like a monkey?" An unflat- 
tering speech which later came to Gramont's ears. 
" So," said the Count, " she calls me a monkey, does 
she? Well, I must show her some of my tricks." 

Wounded vanity and such a passion as now fired 
the breast of Gramont are a formidable armoury for 
any maiden's heart, however strongly entrenched, to 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

fight against. And so La Belle Hamilton found 
when the Frenchman laid siege to it with all the skill 
learned in twenty years of woman conquest; for, ill- 
favoured as he was, there was no gallant in all France 
who had won more laurels in the arena of love. Con- 
tempt and indifference soon gave way to a pleased com- 
plaisance, and complaisance to a warmer feeling, 
until, within a few months of setting eyes on the 
"monkey," Elizabeth Hamilton was ready to give 
her life into his keeping. Beautiful as she had been 
before, the love that had come into her life made her 
still more bewitching, until Henry Howard ex- 
claimed, " Surely nothing more perfect has ever 
trodden earth in woman's guise!" 

During the three years that Miss Hamilton spent 
at Whitehall her gaiety was ever the life of the Court. 
There was no escapade of which she was not the rul- 
ing spirit, whether it was a night adventure in London 
with a fellow-madcap, or a practical joke on a grave 
Court official. Of one of these jokes an amusing and 
characteristic story is told. 

Among the women of fashion who frequented the 
Court was Lady Muskerry, whose vanity was only 
equalled by her grotesque appearance. She was 
abnormally stout and short, with a sallow, uncomely 
face, disfigured by an abominable squint, and with 
one leg shorter than the other. But, unattractive as 

339 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

she was, a caricature of a woman, she was obsessed 
by the idea that her charms were irresistible, and she 
spent a fortune in embellishing them with the costliest 
finery and jewels that money could buy. 

My lady's indignation may be imagined when a 
Court masque ball was announced to which she re- 
ceived no card of invitation. She fretted and fumed 
and shed tears of mortification, declaring that some 
jealous enemy of her own sex had brought this slight 
upon her. She was even on the point of seeking 
audience with the Queen herself, to demand the invi- 
tation which was due to her rank and fascinations, 
when, to her inexpressible delight, a messenger 
arrived bearing not only the longed-for invitation, but 
a special request that she should not fail to honour 
the ball with her appearance. The character assigned 
to her ladyship was that of a Princess of Babylon, 
and her partner none other than the Comte de 
Gramont. 

So overjoyed was she that she kissed the precious 
card rapturously, and shed tears over it before order- 
ing her coach, to purchase the necessary finery. But 
her first journey was to her cousin, Elizabeth Hamil- 
ton, to impart the good news to her, and to get a 
few hints as to the appropriate dress for a Babylonian 
Princess. Needless to say, Miss Hamilton shared 
the good lady's joy to the full, and sent her away with 

340 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

such a conception of the required costume as would 
have shocked even the Queen of Sheba herself. 

On the fateful evening the gorgeous Muskerry 
coach, with its four horses in their gilded trappings, 
dashed up to the palace door just as Gramont, attired 
as a Spanish Grandee, was entering. " Monsieur de 
Gramont/' shouted a high-pitched voice, "stop one 
moment; you are my partner." A glance at the 
speaker was sufficient. The Comte took to his heels, 
and never stopped until he found himself in the pres- 
ence of the King, to whom he declared that he had 
been stopped at the door of the palace by a " devil 
of a phantom," who said that he was to be her part- 
ner. " Your Majesty should just see her," he said, 
amid shrieks of laughter from the surrounding cour- 
tiers. " She must have at least sixty ells of gauze 
and silver tissue about her, not to mention a sort of 
pyramid upon her head, adorned by a hundred 
thousand baubles." 

" Who can it be ?" was the question which passed 
round the circle of dancers. Charles declared the 
" devil of a phantom " must be the Duchess of New- 
castle, an eccentric lady whose conceptions of dress 
were usually startling. "And I," said Lord Mus- 
kerry, who was standing near, "will wager it is 
another fool, for -I am much mistaken if it is not my 
wife." And before the lady could be summoned for 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

inspection, he had made his way to the waiting coach, 
to find his worst fears confirmed. A minute later 
the " Babylonian Princess " was being driven hur- 
riedly home, where she was locked in her bedroom, 
with a sentry at the door to make sure of her for the 
night. To her last day Lady Muskerry never knew 
that the flattering card of invitation was forged by the 
mischievous hand of Elizabeth Hamilton, who was 
also responsible for the Babylonian finery and the 
shock to the Comte de Gramont's nerves. 

Now that Gramont had won his prize, his ardour 
seems to have cooled ; to such an extent, indeed, that, 
when he paid his next visit to France, he quite forgot 
even to say " good-bye " to the lady whose heart he 
had won. He had no sooner reached Dover, how- 
ever, than he heard the sound of galloping horses 
behind him; and before he had well dismounted, 
found himself face to face with two of her brothers. 
" Chevalier de Gramont," said George Hamilton 
sternly, " is there nothing you have forgotten in 
London?" "Pardon!" was the prompt reply, 
accompanied by a sweeping bow ; " pardon, monsieur, 
but I have forgotten your sister." 

And, thus reminded, the next morning he was rid- 
ing back to London to do his neglected duty at the 
altar. To quote the somewhat satirical words of 
Anthony Hamilton, one of the lady's brothers, "the 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

Comte de Gramont, as a reward for a constancy he 
had never before known, and which he never after- 
wards practised, found Hymen and Love united in 
his favour, and was at last blessed with the possession 
of Miss Hamilton." 

The rest of our heroine's story may be told in a few 
words. Elizabeth, Comtesse de Gramont, passed the 
remainder of her long life partly in England and 
partly in France, turning to piety as a refuge from 
the worldliness and heartlessness of her husband. 
She bore him a son and two daughters, one of whom 
found a husband in Henry Howard, Earl of 
Strafford ; and she survived to see the crown of Eng- 
land worn by Queen Anne, daughter of the Prince 
who had wooed her so importunately in the too brief 
years when she was Queen of Beauty. 



343 



CHAPTER XXXV 



A DUCAL ROUE 

Wharton, the scorn and wonder of our days, 
Whose ruling passion was the lust of praise, 
******* 

A fool, with more of wit than half mankind, 

Too rash for thought, for action too refined ; 

A tyrant to the wife his heart approves, 

A rebel to the very King he loves ; 

He dies, sad outcast of each Church and State, 

And harder still ! flagitious yet not great. 

SUCH are the scathing words in which Pope pictures 
Philip, the " eccentric, witty, and profligate " Duke 
of Wharton, who was surely the most remarkable 
jumble of gifts and vices that ever masqueraded in the 
guise of man. Polished orator and wit, courtier to his 
ringer- tips, dowered with every grace of body and mind 
to win honour and high repute, he was content to drift 
through his short life a profligate among profligates, 
the sport of every mad impulse that seized him, false to 
country and friends, to every woman who crossed his 
baleful path, and to himself, changing his religion as 
lightly as he changed his coat, and, having been cradled 
in Calvinism, ending his days a penitent Catholic. 
Philip was the degenerate descendant of a long line 

344 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

of noble and knightly Whartons, who had been seated 
on their broad Westmorland lands for many a long cen- 
tury, and one of whom, Sir Thomas, had won a Barony 
for doughty deeds against the Scots when the eighth 
Henry was King. His ancestors had mated with the 
daughters of such famous houses as Talbot, Devereux, 
and Clifford; and his mother was a Loftus, daughter of 
Lord Lisburn. He had, moreover, for father 
" Honest Tom " Wharton, who, profligate as he was, 
was a pillar of the Protestant Church, and by his 
loyalty to the Crown won for himself the coronet of a 
Marquis. Philip thus succeeded to a goodly heritage 
of virtues; and, that he might not stray from the 
straight path his forefathers had followed, he was 
rigidly brought up, like his father before him, 
" among Geneva bands, lank hair, upturned eyes, 
nasal psalmody, and sermons three hours long.'* He 
took to his books as a young duck takes to water; and 
by the time he was thirteen was a very prodigy of learn- 
ing; steeped in classics, mathematics, and metaphysics, 
and reeling off rhetoric like a seasoned parliamentary 
orator. 

But the youthful hope of the Whartons was not 
destined long to remain such a pattern of the proprie- 
ties. He had barely seen his sixteenth birthday when 
he tost his heart to the pretty and penniless daughter 
of a Major-General Holmes; and, flinging away his 

345 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

books, he ran off with her to London, where he found 
a down-at-heels Fleet Prison parson willing to marry 
the runaways for half-a-crown and a bottle of wine, 
with the ring of a window-curtain for wedding-ring. 
After a few weeks of honeymooning, however, Philip 
Wharton, ex-student and " boy-saint," began to 
weary of his girl-wife, and to sigh for other lips and 
other arms; and before he had been a husband half a 
year we find him packing his bride off to her home and 
engaging in one sordid intrigue after another 
beginning, in fact, that career of debauchery to which 
alone he was constant for the remainder of his misspent 
life. 

This violent shock to their hopes proved fatal to 
Philip's parents, who quickly followed each other to 
the grave; and before the prodigal son had reached his 
seventeenth birthday he found himself a double 
Marquis, Earl, Viscount and Baron, and in possession 
of a revenue of 16,000 a year. He had the ball at his 
feet, and meant to kick it right merrily, laughing at the 
provision of his father's will that he should go 
to Geneva to finish his education, with an austere 
Huguenot pastor as tutor. It was in a state of high 
glee and anticipation that the young lord turned his 
back on England and set foot on Dutch soil, in spite 
of the grim face that accompanied him. In Holland 
and Germany the handsome boy with the charming 

346 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

manners was made much of wherever his journeying 
took him. Ladies smiled on him; princelings and 
courtiers fawned on him as they emptied his purse at 
the card-table and drank his health in a third bottle of 
good wine; and when one Grand Duke presented him 
with a knightly Order in exchange for a regal present, 
the silly boy's head was completely turned. His cup 
of joy was quite full when one day he gave his tutor the 
slip and escaped to Lyons, leaving behind him a pet 
bear to keep the dominie company on his further 
travels. 

At last he was free to " fling his legs " as he pleased; 
and the first use he made of his new liberty was to 
throw overboard his loyalty to his king, and ingratiate 
himself with the Pretender, who was then holding his 
mock Court at Avignon. A gracious letter, accom- 
panied by the present of a splendid charger, had the 
desired sequel in an invitation to the Court, where the 
young lord was received with open arms. The son of 
" Honest Tom " Wharton, one of the bitterest 
enemies of the Stuart House, was an adherent well 
worth securing; and before the Marquis had been many 
days his guest, the Pretender conferred on him the 
Dukedom of Northumberland, with such compli- 
mentary speeches as transported him to the seventh 
heaVen. 

From Avignon the new Duke rode to Paris to pay 

347 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

homage to James II.'s Queen, and incidentally to 
drink deep of the pleasures of that city of gaiety. He 
threw himself into every kind of dissipation, flinging 
his gold about with prodigal hands drinking, gaming, 
philandering, until his purse, which his trustees kept 
none too well supplied, was empty. Then, in his 
extremity, he took his coaxing tongue to Mary 
Beatrix, the Stuart Queen; and, full of zeal for the 
Jacobite cause, persuaded her to lend him ^2,000 to 
raise which sum she had to pawn all her remaining 
jewels on his solemn undertaking that every penny 
should go to promote the cause of her exiled House. 
A few hours later the Duke was staking the price of 
his infamy in one of the lowest gaming-houses in Paris, 
and boasting that " he would remain a Jacobite only 
as long as the money remained unpaid! " 

After exhausting all the lowest so-called pleasures of 
Paris, the Duke shook the dust of France off his feet 
for a time; and we find him installed in the Irish House 
of Lords as Marquis of Catherlogh, where, boy as he 
was, he won immediate fame by his eloquent support 
of the Government and his championship of the Han- 
overian King a loyalty which so pleased George I. 
that he raised the youth of nineteen to the Dukedom of 
Wharton. Two years later he stood in England with 
a reputation as one of the leading orators and states- 
men of his day, and was winning laurels as the most 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

eloquent speaker in the English House of Peers and, 
at the same time, infamy as the most dissolute man in 
town, a haunter of low resorts, a reckless gambler, and 
a drunkard. 

Careless of his fame as a statesman, his only 
ambition was to be a ringleader of vice; and this 
ambition he realised to the full when he was elected 
President of the infamous " Hell Fire Club/' an 
association of the most abandoned evil-livers in 
London. It was after a night's debauch at this 
supreme haunt of vice that Wharton made perhaps his 
most powerful and eloquent speech in favour of a 
Bill for suppressing profligate societies. With dis- 
gusting hypocrisy, he proclaimed himself the champion 
of virtue, and supported his arguments with copious 
texts, read with unctuous voice from an old family 
Bible. A few hours later he was lying dead drunk in 
a house of ill-fame, the sport and derision of his low 
associates. 

Meanwhile, the Duke's profligacy was draining his 
purse to such an extent that he was forced to sell one 
estate after another. His library and pictures came 
under the auctioneer's hammer; and finally his property 
was vested in trustees, who cut down his allowance to 
a beggarly 1,200 a year. His neglected wife had 
died of grief and shame; and his debauchery had 
created so much scandal that in 1724 he was glad to 

349 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

escape once more to the Continent. Here he resumed 
the role of ardent Jacobite; and as Ambassador of King 
James III. was received with distinction at the Courts 
of Vienna and Madrid. When an order under the 
Privy Seal was sent to summon him to England, we 
are told, " His Grace, being in a coach when it was 
delivered to him, contemptuously threw it into the 
street without opening it, and soon after declared him- 
self a Roman Catholic." " I would rather," he 
wrote to a friend, " carry a musket in an old Muscovite 
regiment than wallow in riches by the favour of the 
Usurper " the " Usurper," be it noted, being the 
King whose valiant champion he had been a few 
months earlier, and who had rewarded his loyalty by 
a Dukedom. 

At the Court of Madrid this ducal roue and traitor 
succumbed to the charms of Miss O' Byrne, the penni- 
less daughter of an Irish gentleman, and Maid of 
Honour to the Spanish Queen. When Her Majesty 
refused her assent to the match, Wharton vowed that 
he would kill himself or starve himself to death; and 
actually took to what he declared was his deathbed 
until the Queen relented. Within an hour of receiv- 
ing the good news he was up and about again, as well 
as ever, and was attending Mass as a preliminary to 
writing to his sister, " Nothing shall ever tempt me to 
forsake the religion wherein I was educated." But 

35<> 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

his new Duchess was as powerless to reform her hus- 
band as her predecessor had been. At Rome, where 
he now journeyed, he shocked everyone by his drunken 
orgies and his amours, until the city of the Popes 
became too hot for him; and, with an empty purse, he 
went to offer his sword to the Spanish King, then pre- 
paring to besiege Gibraltar. 

Here, as Philip's aide-de-camp, he amazed the 
Spaniards by his reckless courage, probably inspired 
by his cups. Once, we are told, he walked, alone and 
unarmed, up to the English lines and hurled taunts 
and insults at his own countrymen, proclaiming his 
name, and walking back as coolly as if he were 
promenading in Hyde Park. Such cold-blooded 
treachery as this could only have one sequel. The 
Duke was indicted for high treason, and a sentence of 
outlawry was pronounced against him. In vain he 
now grovelled to Walpole, our Ambassador at Paris, 
begging him to intercede with the King, and vowing 
that his greatest wish was to ' ' pass the evening of my 
days under the shadow of his Royal protection." All 
the answer he got was the cold message: "His 
Majesty does not think fit to receive any application 
from him." Even the Pretender now turned away 
from him in disgust, advising him to return to Eng- 
land, as he had no use for him. 

Thus stripped of all his honours, and of all supplies, 

35 1 



ROMANCES OF THE PEERAGE 

herding with the scum of the barracks, scorned by his 
brother officers, despised by even his low associates, 
Philip Wharton, twofold Duke, Marquis, Earl, 
Viscount, and Baron, spent the last sordid days of his 
misspent life. In 1730 his health, undermined by his 
excesses, broke down. He started on a last pilgrim- 
age to Catalonia to drink medicinal waters, but his 
strength failed, and he was picked up unconscious on 
the roadside by a party of Benedictine monks. A few 
days later, after a brief interval of penitence, he drew 
his last breath in the monastery of Aragon-Poblet, 
leaving no single soul to mourn his loss, but leaving 
the memory of such a wanton squandering of gifts and 
opportunities as the world has rarely known. 



THE END 



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